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What we know so far about the presidential candidates' Q4 numbers
WASHINGTON — With the books closed on 2019, there's still a lot we don't know about the presidential candidates' financials.
That's because candidates have until the end of the month to file their official reports with the Federal Election Commission.
But most of the candidates have already released some top-line numbers, giving us the ability to sketch out how much money each campaign raised in 2019 (combining the estimated fourth-quarter numbers released by each campaign with how much it raised over the first three quarters of the year).
- President Trump: Quarters 1-3 $97.8 million + estimated quarter 4 $46 million = $143.8 million (with at least $66.3 million in transfers from affiliated committees)
- Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders: Q1-3 $74.4m + estimated Q4 $34.5m = $108.9m (at least $12.7 million in transfers)
- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Q1-3 $60.3m + estimated Q4 $21.2m = $81.5m (at least $10.4 million in transfers)
- Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Q1-3 $51.5m + estimated Q4 $24.7m = $76.2m
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: Q1-3 $37.8m + estimated Q4 $22.7m = $60.5m
- Businessman Andrew Yang: Q1-3 $14.5m + estimated Q4 16.5m = $31m
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Q1-3 $17.5m + estimated Q4 $11.4m = $28.9m (at least $3.6m in transfers)
- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: Q1-3 $18.5m + estimated Q4 $6.6m = $25.1m (at least $2.8m in transfers)
Julián Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren's presidential bid
Former Housing Sec. Julián Castro, who ended his own presidential campaign last week, has endorsed Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Castro announced the endorsement on Twitter with a video of the two candidates talking about their candidacies.
"I started my campaign off and we lived true to the idea that we want an America where everyone counts. It's the same vision that I see in you, in your campaign, in the America that you would help bring about," he says in the video as he sits across a kitchen island from Warren.
"Nobody is working harder than you are, not only in meeting people but listening to people."
Warren also thanked Castro in a tweet where she called him a "powerful voice for bold, progressive change."
Warren's campaign said Castro will campaign with the senator at a Tuesday evening rally in New York City.
Biden gets backing from trio of swing-district Democrats
DAVENPORT, Iowa — A trio of swing-district Democrats and military veterans are endorsing Joe Biden, arguing that his presence at the top of the ticket gives the party its best chance for victory.
Two of the three — Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Elaine Luria of Virginia — were first elected in the 2018 blue wave, taking back Republican-held seats. The third, Rep. Conor Lamb won a hard-fought special election victory in his Western Pennsylvania district in early 2018 and then unseated a GOP incumbent in the fall after court-ordered redistricting.
Their backing comes as Biden has increasingly pressed his case to voters that he presents the best chance of leading the party to victory up and down the ticket in November. Biden spent the weekend in Iowa campaigning with another freshman Democrat, Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who carried a Trump district in 2018.
“There are candidates that worry me in terms their ability to win Pennsylvania and their ability to win the support of working and middle class voters. I think Vice President Biden can,” Lamb said in an interview. “People know him and know he has a record of achievement. That doesn’t get swept aside easily.”
The Democrats’ all cited Biden’s foreign policy experience as another key factor in their endorsement, especially amid escalating tensions with Iran after the U.S. strike targeting Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Luria served in the Navy, Houlihan the Air Force and Lamb in the Marines before running for office.
Luria said foreign policy is always a major concern in her district, home to the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, a major point of departure for U.S. aircraft carriers, and NATO’s Joint Force Command.
“People here really pay close attention to that because that’s their husband, their wife, their neighbor, their child that’s in harm’s way,” Luria told NBC News. “We need someone like Joe Biden who can reset our position on the world stage, regain respect with our allies and step in on day one with the experience he has as vice president and go to work.”
"Congressional candidates in seats that allow Democrats to retain our majority in the House will not have to spend precious resources running away from the top of the ticket’s unpopular and unworkable Medicare for All plan," Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz wrote in a memo about the endorsements Sunday. "Local candidates who rely on Independent and some Republican votes to win will have a top of the ticket that represents strong, steady, stable leadership at home and abroad, strengthening the Democratic brand in the non-metropolitan regions of the country. That is why we are seeing vulnerable, frontline members increasingly supporting Joe Biden’s candidacy.”
Bernie Sanders dings Congress on abdicating war authority, pushes for legislation on military funding
DUBUQUE, IA — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dinged Congress for abdicating its war power authority during a town hall in Iowa on Saturday.
"For too many years, Congress under Republican administrations and under Democratic administrations has abdicated its constitutional responsibility, it is time for Congress to take that responsibility back," Sanders said. "If Congress wants to go to war, and I will vote against that, but if Congress wants to go to war, let Congress have the guts to vote for war."
Sanders comments come on the heels of President Donald Trump authorizing an airstrike in Iraq that killed a top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Wednesday. On Saturday, Sanders called Trump's actions a "dangerous escalation" that could lead to another war in the Middle East.
While in Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate also pushed for Congress to vote on new legislation he plans to introduce with California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, which would block any funding for military action with Iran without Congressional approval.
"When I return to Washington next week," Sanders said, "I believe the first course of action is for the Congress to take immediate steps to restrain president Trump from plunging our nation into yet another endless war."
Biden says Trump administration unprepared for "risk" of Middle East escalation
DUBUQUE, Iowa — Joe Biden Friday accused President Trump of “an enormous escalation” of the threat of war in the Persian Gulf after he launched a surprise strike targeting a top Iranian commander, while pressing the case to Democrats that the next president must be someone who doesn’t need “on the job training.”
The former vice president, speaking in Iowa one month before the state’s leadoff caucuses, seized on a fresh foreign policy crisis to reinforce some of his principal critiques of Trump’s leadership and play up his decades of foreign policy experience.
“The threat to American lives and interests in the region and around the world are enormous. The risk of nuclear proliferation is real and the possibility that ISIS will regenerate in the region has increased, and the prospects of direct conflict with Iran is greater than it has ever been,” he said. “The question is do Donald Trump and his administration have a strategy for what comes next?”
Biden said no American mourns the loss of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds force, and that it was right to bring him to justice. But he contrasted the assassination of an official within a sovereign government with strikes against other top terrorist targets, saying Trump’s provocative action puts the U.S. potentially “on the brink of greater conflict with the Middle East.”
“Unfortunately, nothing we have seen from this administration over the past three years suggests that they are prepared to deal with the very real risk we now confront. And there's no doubt the risks are greater today because of the actions Donald Trump has taken, walking away from diplomacy, walking away from international agreements, relying on force,” he said.
Biden said Thursday’s strike was the latest in a string of “dubious” actions that have unnecessarily ratcheted up tensions in the region, including decision to unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear agreement struck by the Obama administration along with top Western allies.
The Trump administration “said the goal of maximum pressure was to deter regional aggression, negotiate a better nuclear deal. Thus far, they have badly failed on both accounts,” he said. “Now the administration has said the goal of killing Soleimani was to deter future attacks by Iran. But the action almost certainly will have the opposite impact.”
Biden was to have spent Friday touting the new endorsement of Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who joined him in person for the first time and will campaign with him through the weekend. But the situation in Iraq gave him a chance to underscore a key element of his closing pitch to voters — the gravity of the job for whomever replaces Trump.
The next president is going to inherit “a nation that is divided and a world in disarray. This is not a time for on the job training,” he said.
Klobuchar campaign raised $11.4 million in final quarter of 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announced Friday that her presidential campaign raised $11.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, more than double than the $4.8 million she raised in the previous quarter last year.
The campaign noted that their donations came from 145,126 individual donors and the average contribution was $32.
“It's the best quarter we've ever had. And that's a good thing, including way back to when we started before so many people were in the race," Klobuchar said during an event in Iowa on Thursday.
"So we feel good about it. I never thought I would match some of the front-runners who have, you know, long list going way back who've run for president before,” Klobuchar said.
The fourth quarter ended on Dec. 31, but candidates are not required to disclose their fundraising numbers until the filing deadline on Jan. 31.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has announced the largest fundraising number so far, pulling in $34.5 million dollars, with former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg bringing in $24.7 million. Like Klobuchar, the fourth quarter was also former Vice President Joe Biden’s largest haul. The Biden campaign announced they raised $22.7 million. Klobuchar’s totals round out the top six fundraisers so far, falling behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $21.2 million and businessman Andrew Yang’s $16.5 million.
Warren reports $21 million raised in fourth quarter
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Elizabeth Warren's campaign raised just over $21 million in the final quarter of 2019, her campaign said Friday.
The haul puts the Massachusetts senator in the ballpark of her fellow Democratic presidential competitors — and frequent names in the top tier of the primary — Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, who raised $24.7 and $22.7 million, respectively. However, they're all well behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on this metric, who topped the field again this quarter, hauling in more than $34 million.
This latest round of fundraising for the Massachusetts senator is less than the $24.6 million her campaign raised int he third quarter and comes as she's lagged in some polls, especially in the all-important early state of Iowa.
Warren's average donation was $23 from more than 443,000 donors, according to her campaign. Of the $21.2 million raised, the campaign said $1.5 million came in on the last day of 2019 alone. Several days before the close of the quarter, the campaign said it was falling short of its $20 million fundraising goal, asking for donations to help them get there. The campaign did not disclose its cash-on-hand.
In an email to supporters, campaign manager Roger Lau once again highlighted the campaign's strategy of not doing closed door fundraisers or raising money with bundlers and donors. Warren regularly talks about this strategy on the trail, and on the debate stage, using it as a cudgel against Buttigieg during the December Democratic debate — specifically attacking him for a fundraiser he held in a wine cave.
“I'm deeply grateful to every single person who contributed to my campaign. I didn't spend one single minute selling access to my time. To millionaires and billionaires. I did this grassroots all across the country and I'm proud of the grassroots army that we are building,” Warren told reporters Thursday, after a town hall in Concord, New Hampshire.
Marianne Williamson cuts entire campaign staff
NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has laid off the remainder of her campaign staff, two sources confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.
Williamson’s former campaign manager Patricia Ewing and former New Hampshire state director Paul Hodes confirmed the layoffs, first reported by WMUR, to NBC News, citing financial issues. As of Tuesday, the campaign had no staffers, although it's unclear how many staffers Williamson had before the decision was made.
The best-selling author and spiritual advisor struggled to gain traction in national polls despite nearly a year of campaigning in early voting states.
At its height, the campaign had 45 staffers focused on the four early-voting states. In the third quarter of 2019, the campaign raised more than $3 million, a rise from fundraising totals of $1.5 million in both the first and second quarters of last year. Williamson has not released fourth-quarter financial details yet, which are due at the end of the month.
When asked by NBC News whether or not Williamson would stay in the race through the Iowa Caucuses, Ewing only said “she might -- she’s thinking about it.”
In an email to supporters Thursday evening, Williamson wrote, "we've had a wonderful team, and I am deeply grateful for their energy and talents. But as of today, we cannot afford a traditional campaign staff."
"I am not suspending my candidacy, however," she continued. "A campaign not having a huge war chest should not be what determines its fate."
End-of-year fundraising reports still hold plenty of unanswered questions
WASHINGTON — The start of the new year means a whole batch of campaign finance data, and presidential candidates are already selectively releasing numbers to paint their campaigns in the best light.
We already know that President Trump's reelection campaign raised a staggering $46 million in the last three months of 2019, that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Andrew Yang shattered their own personal fundraising records with $34.5 million and $16.5 million respectively. And we know that former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden netted $24.7 million and $22.7 million, respectively.
But since the campaigns don't have to release their full, official fundraising reports until the end of this month, we only know what they want us to know.
Once filed, those official reports will give us one more important glimpse under their financial hoods shortly before the Iowa caucus.
Here are some big questions about those fundraising reports from NBC News' Political Unit.
Will the top Democrats match Trump in cash on hand?
It's tough to compare fundraising between the Democratic candidates and Trump's reelection for a whole host of reasons, including the size of the Democratic field, the role being played by each party committee and how early things still are in the Democratic nominating calendar.
But there's one thing that's clear — the combined Trump/GOP effort is raising money at a historic clip, one that will both give Republicans an early advantage and put pressure on the eventual Democratic nominee to quickly match it.
One big question is whether the top-four polling Democrats can match Trump's cash on hand.
As of Sept. 30, Sanders ($33.7 million), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($25.7 million), Buttigieg ($23.4 million) and former Vice President Joe Biden ($9 million) had a combined $91.8 million banked. Trump's campaign had $83.2 million, although it will also benefit from the Republican National Committee's massive cash advantage over the Democratic National Committee.
The Trump campaign says it closed 2019 with $102 million on hand.
The Democratic cash-on-hand numbers will also be helpful for intraparty comparisons too, as to whether Biden can quell concerns about his cash reserves being markedly lower than his competitions; whether Buttigieg's big investments have left a dent in his bank account; and whether Warren's stagnant polling has prompted any change in spending.
How dire was Kamala Harris' cash situation when she dropped out?
When California Sen. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign last month, she blamed the decision on a recognition that her campaign "lacked the financial resources to continue."
But since her shuttered campaign will still have to file its end-of-the-year report, we'll get to see how dire the situation really was.
As we wrote at the time, Harris' began 2019 as one of the better-fundraising candidates, and her staff size ballooned as the campaign tried to take advantage of her early momentum. But just months later, her campaign started slashing staff and cutting ad spending before ultimately shuttering altogether.
So her forthcoming filing will paint a clearer picture of what Harris saw when she made the decision to close up shop.
How much is Bloomberg spending?
If billionaire Tom Steyer made a splash earlier this year with his largely self-financed bid, then former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set off a tidal wave.
Steyer has spent $67.4 million on television and radio ads since he jumped in in July. Bloomberg has almost doubled that ($120.9 million) in the six weeks since he launched his campaign, according to Advertising Analytics.
That's an unprecedented sum, more than every other candidate including Steyer combined.
While we know about Bloomberg's massive ad spending, we don't know how much he's spent on other important pieces of his campaign, the staffing and on-the-ground work that makes or breaks a campaign.
So look for his report to shed light on just how massive the Bloomberg investment really is.
Are the struggling candidates running out of steam?
There's an old adage about the life and death of a campaign: "A candidate doesn't drop out because they run out of ideas, they drop out because they run out of money."
That's another reason why these forthcoming reports will be interesting — to shed light on other candidates who are struggling to stay afloat.
It's likely that former Housing Sec. Julián Castro's end-of-year report could add some context to why he decided to close his doors less than two days after the books closed on 2019. And the reports will also show what resources candidates like Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had to begin the year.
—Carrie Dann, Mark Murray and Melissa Holzberg contributed
Biden raises $22.7 million in final quarter of 2019
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Powered by a surge of online donations that the campaign attributes in part to stepped-up attacks from President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign posted its strongest fundraising quarter to date.
Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden announced in a new video posted on Twitter Thursday that they have raised $22.7 million in the fourth fundraising quarter, which is still less when compared to some of his rivals, but is a significant sum compared nonetheless.
As in previous quarters, Biden finds himself trailing behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has raised an impressive $34.5 million at the end of the fundraising cycle. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg also raised more than Biden, hauling in $24.7 million.
But the numbers are a boost from the $15.7 million he raised last quarter, which left the campaign with only $8.9 million on hand after spending on internal resources, TV and digital ads across the early primary states.
In the second quarter of 2019, Biden raised $21.5 million, raising the most of any Democratic candidate per day in that quarter in which he launched his bid.
His slow fundraising between July, August and September brought into question whether the Biden campaign could sustain itself throughout the primary, concerns that contributed to former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumping into the race. It also motivated Biden donors to mobilize a Super PAC to support the former vice president.
Senior campaign advisers had forecasted stronger numbers this quarter in part thanks to President Donald Trump’s continued attacks against Biden throughout the House impeachment investigation.
Those advisers also say that they’ve also seen former bundlers for California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke join them since those candidates dropped out of the race.
Biden has held a total of 114 fundraisers in 2019. Late last month, the campaign announced the names of 230 bundlers who have raised more than $25,000 for Biden since he launched his campaign in late April of 2019.
Biden scores endorsement from Iowa Rep. Finkenauer
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer Thursday became the first Democratic member of Iowa's congressional delegation to endorse a candidate in the party's presidential contest, throwing her support behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
Finkenauer, who is one of three of the state's Democratic members of Congress, is expected to join Biden on the trail as he kicks off the new year campaigning in her Eastern Iowa district. And the endorsement comes after a long, shared political history between the two.
She worked on Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign as a volunteer coordinator and was the lone Iowa Democratic candidate in 2018 to receive Biden's endorsement. Biden even appeared at a rally with Finkenauer during the closing weeks of that campaign which ended in her victory over incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum.
Finkenauer represents the 1st district of Iowa, which is most of the northeast corner of the state — including Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque. The district covers 20 counties with a high concentration of working-class voters. Fifteen of those supported Obama by double digits in 2008 and 2012, but swung to Donald Trump in 2016.
The Biden campaign noted in its announcement that the only Democratic members of Congress from any of the first four Democratic presidential nominating states who have endorsed in the presidential primary have backed Biden — Finkenauer and Nevada Rep. Dina Titus.
Biden is planning to hit 10 counties in Iowa over the next five days.
—Marianna Sotomayor contributed
Corey Lewandowski won't run for Senate in New Hampshire
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After months of speculation, President Trump's former 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski announced Tuesday he will not be running for Senate in New Hampshire to challenge Democrat incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Lewandowski wrote in a tweet that while he would forgo a run, his priorities remained his family and re-electing President Trump.
Lewandowski added that he plans to endorse in the N.H. Republican primary, which so far includes Bryant “Corky” Messner, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, and former state Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien.
Lewandowski had been having conversations with local Republican leaders about a potential run, several officials told NBC News. Multiple sources said Lewandowski would have been a “formidable” candidate had he challenged Shaheen.
“I've got a young family, I want to make sure I can spend time with them,” he said. “We've talked about this a lot now. I was in Washington last week with the president both Friday of last week and then Monday of this week, talking again. I talked with Senate leadership about this race to understand the resources that would be available to take on a two-term incumbent U.S. senator, looked at her voting record, realized that she no longer aligns with the values of New Hampshire, all these things are pointing us in the right direction."
The New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted to Lewandowski's announcement shortly after his initial tweet.
“While Messner, Bolduc, and O'Brien tear each other down in the contentious primary Lewandowski has left behind, Senator Shaheen will continue working across the aisle for New Hampshire, leading efforts to lower prescription drug costs and making sure veterans and their families get the benefits they deserve," said NHDP spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank.
The New Hampshire Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bennet launching campaign's first New Hampshire television ad
WEST LEBANON, N.H. — Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is launching his presidential campaign's first New Hampshire television ad aimed at contrasting him with President Donald Trump.
In the new one-minute spot, Bennet talks to the camera to argue that he's "the opposite of Trump," pitching himself as the candidate who can bridge the political divide and get results on issues like health care.
Bennet’s campaign announced last week they need to raise $700,000 by Jan. 16 of next year to have the resources to compete in New Hampshire, including for the launch of his new ad. It says as of Friday the campaign has raised just over $165,000 toward that goal, so it will now put $60,000 into TV and digital this week.
The campaign told NBC News it will increase its ad buy over the coming weeks as it continues to raise, and they intend to reach a six-figure buy, and that it needs to raise more to keep the ad on the air in the coming weeks.
“Voters are asking one question in this election: Who can beat Donald Trump?” campaign spokesperson Shannon Beckham said in a statement.
“To beat Trump, we need the opposite of Trump, and Michael represents that in every way. People who are exhausted by the daily circus in the White House are looking for a candidate who will return things back to normal and start to make progress for their families."
The ad buy comes on the heels of Bennet announcing he would hold 50 town halls in New Hampshire in the final 10 weeks leading up to the state’s primary. His current tally is at 21 town halls, and with an impending impeachment trial in the Senate, the logistics of the rest are to be determined.
“I just know that New Hampshire hasn't made up its mind yet and that's why I'm here,” Bennet told reporters last week in Peterborough, NH. “I think our states are very similar and the politics are similar, and I'm hoping to do well here.”
Bennet is set to return to New Hampshire for a seven-day trip starting December 30, including hosting a first event of 2020 at 12:01 AM on January 1st.
Amy Klobuchar to hit 99th and final Iowa county on presidential campaign
ESTHERVILLE, IA — Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to visit her 99th county in Iowa on Friday morning, completing her quest to hit every county in the state during her presidential bid.
She’s the only presidential candidate who qualified for last month's debate stage to accomplish the feat (the only other candidate to complete the full tour is John Delaney, who’s been campaigning since 2017.)
Friday’s swing includes stops in Emmet, Kossuth and Humboldt counties - which all voted for President Trump in the 2016 general election - before heading to Des Moines to celebrate the completion of the full tour.
Emulating her habit of visiting all of her home state of Minnesota’s 87 counties, Klobuchar has emphasized the importance of meeting people in their communities on the campaign trail, touting her ability to appeal to moderate Democrats, Independents and Republicans.
Friday’s final three counties come after Klobuchar embarked on a busy four-day, 27 county bus tour last weekend. She passed through the southern edge of the state before swing up through northwest Iowa - historically conservative pockets of the state.
With just over a month until Iowa’s caucus, Klobuchar has seen her standing in the polls improve. In last month's Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll, she was the first choice for 6 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, good for fifth place. She also finished in fifth place (with 5 percent) in Monmouth University's November poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers.
The voters who could decide the 2020 election
WASHINGTON — In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 48 percent of registered voters say they are certain to vote against President Trump, and 34 percent say they’re certain to vote for him.
In the middle are 18 percent of voters who say they might vote either way depending on the Democratic nominee.
Who are these 18 percent of voters — given that Trump needs to win two-thirds of them to reach the national 46 percent he won in 2016, or four-in-five of them to get to 48 percent?
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollsters call them “squishy Republicans” or “nominal Republicans.” They’re disproportionately younger men who identify as independents or moderates.
President Trump’s job rating with them is 55 percent (compared to 44 percent overall in the poll), they favor Republicans by 20 points in congressional preference (versus the D+7 lead overall) and a plurality of them believe Trump did something wrong regarding Ukraine — but that it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
So the name of the game for 2020 is Trump trying to win as many of these squishy/nominal Republicans as possible to assemble a winning coalition, or the eventual Democratic nominee cutting into enough of these voters to deny the president that coalition.
And how do these up-for-grabs view the Democratic contenders? Check out these numbers:
Mike Bloomberg is spending big in his presidential bid. Here’s how other self-funders fared.
WASHINGTON — Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has wasted no time putting his massive fortune to use in the race for the Democratic nomination. Worth an estimated $55 billion, the 2020 hopeful has already dwarfed his rivals by spending over $100 million on advertising since he announced his campaign just weeks ago. And Bloomberg is paying for it all himself — his website notably lacks a “donate” button, and he’s said he won’t seek any contributions.
Though he may be the wealthiest candidate in history, he’s not the only billionaire or self-funder to try his hand at presidential politics, not even in 2020.
Among Democrats, Bloomberg joins Tom Steyer, a California hedge fund billionaire who has plowed $47 million into his own campaign, according to his latest FEC filings, and garnered just enough support for three coveted debate invitations. Another multimillionaire, former congressman John Delaney, has given more than $24 million to his campaign to much less success, rarely even reaching 1 percent in national polls.
The three are spending all that money to earn a chance at challenging yet another billionaire: Donald Trump. And while Trump’s reelection effort is a fundraising juggernaut, his 2016 campaign was powered in part by his own wealth, to the tune of $66.1 million in personal contributions and loans.
Though there have long been self-funders in presidential politics, it is notable that 2020 involves so many of them. “This is by no means new,” says Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. “As campaigns grow ever more expensive, this will continue to be a trend.”
Apart from the current president, those who have relied largely on their own wealth to win the presidency have historically come up empty-handed.
In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot launched an independent bid for the White House and spent $64 million (that’s $118 million in 2020, adjusted for inflation) on his way to winning 19 percent of the popular vote, a modern record for independent candidates.
Perot famously bought 30-minute infomercials where he talked economic policy direct to camera from his desk, using charts and a pointer. During his Reform Party run four years later, Perot spent significantly less — $20 million inflation-adjusted — and saw his popular vote share decrease to just over 8 percent.
The first time publisher Steve Forbes sought the Republican nomination, in 1996, he self-funded with an inflation-adjusted $61 million. But like his signature tax policy, his campaign fell flat. Time Magazine referred to it as “wacky, saturated with money and ultimately embarrassing to all concerned,” and he finished a distant third place with 11 percent of the total primary vote.
Undeterred, Forbes jumped back into the fray in 2000, and spent another $60 million to even meeker results: a handful of delegates and no primary victories.
The 2000s saw several very wealthy men run for president: John Kerry in 2004, Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, and Jon Huntsman in 2012. Of the three, Romney in 2008 was the most prolific self-funder, spending $54 million in 2019 dollars, over a third of his total campaign expenditure (in 2012 he stopped self-funding). Kerry gave his campaign almost $9 million in 2019 dollars, but fundraised several hundred million more. And Huntsman loaned his campaign over $5 million, more than he raised from donors. None of the three became president.
Can Bloomberg overcome history? While he’s been successful at “buying himself a head start,” Krumholz cautions that for billionaires, “the money represents a shortcut around the hard slog of campaigning, but generally not to victory.”
Michael Bloomberg releases first part of health care plan
LOS ANGELES — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out the contours of his health care plan on Thursday, adding his voice to the issue that has defined, and vexed, the Democratic primary field all year.
Bloomberg's proposal would be a “Medicare-like” public option — which places him in step with other “moderate’ candidates in the 2020 Democratic field, like former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. The proposal also aims to bolster the Affordable Care Act, expand coverage and cut costs of prescription drugs and health care prices.
The two-page plan, which Bloomberg is promoting over several campaign stops in Tennessee, is the first of a two-part health care plan. The second part will focus on public health and be released in the new year, according to the Bloomberg campaign.
Several Democrats in the 2020 field prescribe a public option as either their end goal or, in the case of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as part of a longer-term process to get to a Medicare For All system. Bloomberg, however, does not intend for Medicare for All to be the goal.
On a campaign-hosted call with reporters before the plan’s release and Bloomberg aides were clear that a public option was not a stepping stone to Medicare for All, emphasizing the realities of Congress as a key reason why.
“We’re going for a more achievable approach,” one aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan.
Aides were also clear that Bloomberg’s plan, like those of other moderates, envisions a continued role for private insurance. The campaign referred to Americans being able to keep plans they were promised.
“We’re not trying to completely rock the boat and get everyone off the plan if they like it," an aide said.
Bloomberg proposes capping out-of-network charges at 200 percent of Medicare rates, in order to keep health care prices down. To lower the cost of prescription drugs, Bloomberg plans to empower the Health and Human Services Secretary to negotiate prices with pharmaceuticals.
The plan also seeks to expand coverage and subsidies, in addition to creating the public option. The campaign said it hasn't yet gotten a formal estimate of what the price tag will be for the entire plan, but informally puts the cost at $1.5 trillion to create the public option and expand subsidies. The campaign believes that by capping out of network charges and negotiating drug costs, the total cost could be brought to to $1 trillion.
Donald Glover to endorse Andrew Yang, co-host Los Angeles event
WASHINGTON — Actor Donald Glover, also known by his musical stage name Childish Gambino, will endorse 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Thursday in Los Angeles at a joint event they're calling “The 46 Campaign.”
The collaboration campaign event takes place just hours before Yang is expected to take the debate stage at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. for the final Democratic presidential primary debate of 2019.
He will be joined on-stage by former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. Yang was the last candidate to qualify under the Democratic National Committee's thresholds and will be the only candidate of color on the debate stage.
“The 46 Campaign” is expected to sell collaboration merchandise in “limited quantities,” according to Glover’s Instagram story, with all proceeds going towards to the Yang campaign. Glover also noted there will not be any music at the event.
S.Y. Lee, Yang's national press secretary, confirmed to NBC News that Glover will endorse at the event, and that the merchandise on sale will include sweatshirts, hats and posters.
In addition to being a Golden Globe-winning actor and influential rapper, Glover has become increasingly political in his music and art in recent years. Under the stage name Childish Gambino, Glover broke onto the national political stage upon the May 2018 release of his award-winning song, “This is America.”
The anthem and its accompanying music video, which trended as the No. 1 song in the United States for three weeks, depicts stark political themes including gun violence, police brutality and the experience of being black in the United States. “This is America” went on to win four Grammy Awards that year.
Yang has garnered a few celebrity endorsements or donations to his campaign, including actor Nicolas Cage, musician Rivers Cuomo, actor Noah Centineo, investor Sam Altman and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Booker ad to air during Thursday's debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker. D-N.J. will not be on tonight’s debate stage, but viewers watching CNN in select markets will see the presidential candidate in his first television ad of the election cycle.
“How long are these things, 30 seconds? Are you sure we can afford this?” Booker jokes in the ad. “You're only gonna see this ad once because I'm not a billionaire. I won't be on tonight's debate stage, but that's okay because I'm going to win this election anyway. This election isn't about who can spend the most, or who slings the most mud. It's about the people.”
The 30-second spot, “Together,” will air during CNN’s simulcast of the debate in 22 markets, including the first four early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
The cable ad buy is the first part of a half-million dollar investment in television and digital ads, originally planned solely for Iowa. It comes during what campaign manager Addisu Demissie indicated will be the best fundraising quarter yet for the campaign — Booker has raised more than $3 million since the last democratic debate.
On Saturday, Booker led the 2020 Democratic field in calling on the DNC to ease qualification thresholds for future debates.
Booker has 2 percent support in the latest NBC News/WSJ national poll released Thursday.
Collins' decision to seek re-election puts her in middle of fight for Senate control
WASHINGTON — Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday she's running for re-election, a decision setting up one of the most competitive Senate races of the 2020 cycle.
Collins announced her decision in a letter where she framed herself as a "centrist who still believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship."
“I promised the people of Maine a decision this fall on whether I would seek reelection. The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: in today’s polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship? she asked.
“I have concluded that the answer to this question is “yes,” and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine’s United States Senator."
The decision was not a big surprise, as Collins’s campaign has already spent $1.2 million on television ads and raised almost $5.7 million so far this cycle (through September). But the Republican hadn’t officially confirmed her intentions until Wednesday.
Collins is a Senate mainstay, serving in the body since the 1996 election. But this reelection could be the toughest in her political career.
Democrats see a narrow path toward taking the Senate in 2020, which would almost certainly include defeating Collins and could make her seat one that decides the body's balance of power. Many believe Collins is at a uniquely vulnerable point in her political career thanks in part to President Trump's languishing approval rating as well as her decision to vote in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
And she'll also be right at the center of the impeachment battle as a pivotal vote in any Senate trial deciding whether to remove Trump from office.
That's why there's been an uncharacteristically huge amount of television spending (almost $7 million) in the race already, with Democrats outspending Republicans $4.3 million to $2.7 million.
The Democrats' top candidate is state House Speaker Sara Gideon, but she faces a primary challenge from progressive Betsy Sweet, the former head of the Maine Women's Lobby.
Joe Biden releases medical assessment, described as 'healthy, vigorous'
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may call Joe Biden “sleepy,” but the former vice president’s physician states that the 77-year-old is in good health and nowhere near slowing down.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor of The George Washington University released a three-page medical summary of Biden's health on Tuesday at the request of his patient, in which he described Biden as a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief.”
There is no new notable change in Biden’s medical history based on previous medical records released during his time as vice president. Biden survived two brain aneurysms in the late 1980s — one did not rupture. And while the condition was later complicated by subsequent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, O'Connor states there are currently no serious threats to Biden’s health and medical conditions from his past are currently under control.
Biden is taking blood thinners and medication for acid reflux, cholesterol and seasonal allergies. Dr. John Torres, an NBC News medical correspondent, notes that acid reflux can occasionally cause a hoarse voice, which has become noticeable at times on the campaign trail.
O’Connor has been Biden’s primary physician since 2009, and also released the results of Biden's most recent physical exam, which showed him to be in stable health. Notably, his doctor points out that Biden’s good health can be attributed to his decision not to smoke, drink and commitment to working out “at least five days per week.”
Critics of the former vice president’s age often suggest the septuagenarian is mentally and physically too old to be president, however, O'Connor makes no mention of any mental deficiencies, stating that Biden’s last physical showed his that his “cranial nerves and vestibular function are normal.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, two of the other septuagenarian Democratic candidates, have also released medical assessments. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has not yet released his.
Biden has also had his gallbladder removed and has been preemptively treated for non-cancerous polyps and skin abrasions in recent years.
Klobuchar to open fundraisers up to press
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will be opening up her future presidential campaign fundraisers to press starting Wednesday, her campaign tells NBC News.
Amid tensions and a growing debate over fundraising transparency among Democratic primary contenders, Klobuchar is joining candidates South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who recently decided to open up their fundraisers to press.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been doing so with a pooled press system from the beginning of his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has made a central campaign talking point her rejection of high-dollar fundraisers, held her first campaign fundraiser in the Los Angeles area last week. While Warren did not attend in person the event was made open to press. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders does not hold fundraisers for his campaign.
Klobuchar’s campaign confirms to NBC News that they will disclose bundlers for campaign donations on her behalf, but provided no details on the timing.
For all future fundraising events, Klobuchar’s campaign will utilize a pool system for a single reporter to attend and cover fundraising events. The campaign will then distribute the pool report at the conclusion of the event.
Klobuchar’s first fundraiser open to the press will be Wednesday in Los Angeles ahead of Thursday’s debate.
Biden campaign responds to impeachment vote in new TV ad
Former Vice President Joe Biden 's presidential campaign is out with a new TV ad ahead of Wednesday's House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, a spot that refers to the 2020 election as a fight for America's soul.
The one-minute cable TV ad, called “Soul of America,” will air in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina through Thursday and rebukes Trump by embracing former Vice President Joe Biden’s core message about the need to unite and restore the country’s soul. The ad buy is part of the campaign’s $6 million paid media expense in the first four early primary states.
The ad features clips of Biden’s first blistering speech against Trump delivered early this summer in Burlington, Iowa, where he strongly assailed Trump for having “no moral leadership” or interest in uniting the country. In that same speech, he went on to accuse Trump of trying to lead “with a toxic tongue” that has “publicly and unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism and division.”
The ad hinges on the reminder Biden often delivers on the campaign trail about restoring the soul of America: that America has never lived up to its ideal written by Thomas Jefferson in the preamble of the Constitution, but it has never flat-out abandoned it as Trump has.
It starkly contrasts the achievements America has made despite centuries of slavery and racism, which Biden points out took true leadership to try and stamp out such malice. The ad shows famous moments in African American history before quickly pivoting to images of Trump and the flashpoints that have happened under his watch like Charlottesville.
“If we give Donald Trump four more years, this will not be the country envisioned by Washington. This will not be the nation bound together by Lincoln. This will not be the nation lifted up by Roosevelt or inspired by Kennedy,” Biden reminds. “It will not be the nation that Barack Obama proves bends towards justice.”
Though the ad never mentions the word impeachment, it makes clear on Biden’s belief that the most important and reliable place to remove Trump from office is in the ballot box next November.
“We can’t and I will not let this man be reelected President of the United States of America,” the ad ends.
New Klobuchar Iowa ad emphasizes her roots
DES MOINES, Iowa — Amy Klobuchar's campaign has released a new television ad touting her Midwestern roots and her “record of bringing people together.” The six-figure ad buy comes right before the next presidential debate on Thursday and will air in across multiple markets in Iowa.
The Minnesota senator chose to target President Trump directly, saying, “If we don’t stop Donald Trump this time, shame on us. Americans deserve a President who has their back, who isn’t afraid to take on powerful forces, who has a record of bringing people together. And most importantly, who gets things done.”
“I know what it takes to win in the Midwest,” Klobuchar adds, reiterating a point Iowans hear often in her stump speech. “It’s not flyover country to me — it’s home.”
The ad is in line with the Minnesota senator's message on the campaign trail, where she frequently draws contrasts between her own beliefs and Trump’s policies in her attempt to cast herself as a natural opponent to the president.
“We come from a country where no matter where you come from or who you know or where you worship or who you love that you can make it in the United States of America,” Klobuchar said at a recent event in Dubuque, Iowa. “And that's really where we begin because we have a president right now who tries to shatter those dreams. He tries to shatter those dreams every single morning when he goes after immigrants, when he goes after people of color, when he goes after people that he doesn't agree with.”
Klobuchar, who frequently jokes that she can see Iowa from her Minnesota porch, will embark on a four-day bus tour through Iowa, vowing to hit 27 counties by the tour’s end. The campaign claims she will have hit 96 counties by the tour’s conclusion — leaving her only three short of hitting all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Klobuchar appears to have solidified her spot in fifth place in Iowa following the last two debates. In recent Iowa-specific polls, she garnered 10 percent in Emerson’s latest poll and 6 percent in the famed Iowa Des Moines Register poll in November.
Buttigieg ad takes on Trump by not talking 'Trump'
DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg's campaign is out with a new television ad highlighting his strategy for taking on President Donald Trump, but viewers shouldn’t expect to hear the president’s name or even see him in the 30-second spot — and for Buttigieg, that’s the point.
The ad, titled “Talk About You,” opens with a graphic that reads, “Pete Buttigieg, speaking about Donald Trump,” and that three seconds is the only time Trump is mentioned by name. Throughout the rest of the ad, the president is simply referred to as “him.”
“What it's really going to take is denying him the power to change the subject,” Buttigieg says on screen as he’s speaks to a group of voters. “The more we're talking about him, the less we're talking about you,” he says as voters nod in agreement.
Buttigieg promises the room full of people that he will, “keep our focus on what matters most, and have the discipline to make sure the conversation stays there too.”
The ad will run statewide in Iowa beginning on Tuesday.
While it may be focused on Trump, the ad also seeks to draw a clear distinction between Buttigieg’s approach to taking on the president and that of his opponents for the Democratic nomination.
Some candidates have released ads that feature Trump prominently, including Former Vice President Joe Biden’s ad titled, “Laughed At.” Senator Bernie Sanders’ first TV ad of this election cycle titled, “Fights for Us,” also includes a clip of the president.
That Buttigieg’s ad doesn't mention the president directly is no accident. A statement by the campaign announcing the ad states, “The ad highlights how Pete would take on Donald Trump by focusing on the issues that are impacting people every day — rather than keeping the focus on Donald Trump.”
County-to-County: Do moderate Republicans hold the key to Trump's impeachment and re-election?
WASHINGTON — As the impeachment process hurdles on through a divided Congress (and public) that seems to be ever-hardening, there is one group of voters who could make a big difference in the political equation for the 2020 election and possibly the eventual outcome of the Senate trial: moderate Republicans who have never been die-hard Trump supporters.
To gauge their reaction on the process, "Meet the Press" assembled a group of six voters who fit that bill in Kent County, Michigan to ask them if they were paying attention to the proceedings and what they were hearing from their friends and neighbors. What they responded with was a mix of disgruntlement and shoulder-shrugging inevitability.
All the members of the panel, several of whom said they do not plan to vote for the president in 2020, signaled that they were all-but-certain the impeachment proceedings would lead to an acquittal for the president. Some said they wanted to see him censured. But there was general agreement that the next step was to “bring on the election.”
Kent is a one of the five locales in the County-to-County Project NBC News launched for 2020 to track different kinds of voter communities through the next presidential election and it's important for two big reasons.
First, Kent, the home of former President Gerald Ford, has long been a bastion of what might be thought of as establishment Republicanism. It’s less diverse than the nation as whole, it’s well-educated and it has high incomes. It’s voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election from 1968 onward — except for 2008 when it narrowly voted for Barack Obama.
It was also a weak point for President Trump in 2016. Even as he carried Michigan in the election, he won Kent by the smallest margin of any Republican in last 50 years. In short, it is an ideal place to see if Trump’s support is weakening among those voters.
Second, those moderate Republicans are particularly crucial in the impeachment story right now because they are likely the only voters that could make the process bipartisan and ultimately impact the outcome of the fight. Democrats and strong Republicans are already deeply dug in on the issue.
President Trump’s time in office has been eventful in many ways, but not in the polling data. The majority of voters have made up their mind on him — for or against. Since his inauguration his job approval rating has stayed in a narrow eight-point band in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, between 47 percent and 39 percent. In October, his approval number was 45 percent.
Andrew Yang releases public-option health care plan
MANCHESTER, NH – Andrew Yang on Monday released his health care proposal, one that creates a public option but still retains the ability for Americans to keep their private insurance.
Yang's campaign said the plan explores “ways to reduce the burden of healthcare on employers, including by giving employees the option to enroll in Medicare for All instead of an employer-provided healthcare plan.”
The "New Way Forward” care plan is a clear departure from his previous support for Medicare for All – still listed as one of “Andrew’s 3 Big Policies” on his campaign website homepage. The proposal instead more closely resembles the plans for a "public option" being championed by candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“To be clear, I support the spirit of Medicare for All, and have since the first day of this campaign. I do believe that swiftly reformatting 18% of our economy and eliminating private insurance for millions of Americans is not a realistic strategy, so we need to provide a new way forward on healthcare for all Americans,” Yang said in the release.
“As Democrats, we all believe in healthcare as a human right. We all want to make sure there is universal affordable coverage. We know we have a broken healthcare system where Americans spend more money on healthcare to worse results. But, we are spending too much time fighting over the differences between Medicare for All, “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and ACA expansion when we should be focusing on the biggest problems that are driving up costs and taking lives.”
The plan doesn't provide a total cost, or a funding source. His proposal also does not include at what age Americans can opt-in to Medicare, nor does it address the millions of Americans currently uninsured or provide information on how copays, deductibles, and premiums would be impacted for those who are insured.
The "Medicare for All" proposals by candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., envision a landscape where private insurance is rendered obsolete. Yang has changed his stance on Medicare for All over recent months, but has maintained support for keeping private insurers if they can compete in the market.
In a June conversation with a New Hampshire voter, Yang referred to himself as "pro-Medicare for All" and said he thought health care should be a "basic right."
But by last month, he told reporters that "the difference between my approach and Senator Sanders and Senator Warren is that I disagree that everyone hates their private insurance plan."
Here are more details from Yang's plan:
- Control the cost of life-saving prescription drugs, through negotiating drug prices, using international reference pricing, forced licensing, public manufacturing facilities, and importation.
- Invest in technologies to finally make health services function efficiently and reduce waste by utilizing modernized services like telehealth and assistive technology, supported by measures such as multi-state licensing laws.
- Change the incentive structure by offering flexibility to providers, prioritizing patients over paperwork, and increasing the supply of practitioners.
- Shift our focus and educating ourselves in preventative care and end-of-life care options.
- Ensure crucial aspects of wellbeing, including mental health, care for people with disabilities, HIV/AIDs detection and treatment, reproductive health, maternal care, dental, and vision are addressed and integrated into comprehensive care for the 21st century.
- Diminish the influence of lobbyists and special interests in the healthcare industry that makes it nearly impossible to draft and pass meaningful healthcare reform.
Michael Bennet says Biden, Buttigieg stole his health care plan
PITTSBURGH – In a rare clash between the candidates over health care, former Vice President Joe Biden last week accused South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of stealing his proposal to build on the Affordable Care Act with a public option. On Saturday, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Biden and Buttigieg took their public option plans from him.
“I’ve been robbed blind by everybody!” Bennet told NBC News on Saturday, after the MSNBC Public Education Forum. “I mean if Mayor Pete sole it from Joe Biden, Joe stole it from me."
Bennet co-sponsored his Medicare-X plan, which would create a public option, in 2017.
One of the signature policy debates of the Democratic primary has been the most effective way to expand access to health care and lower costs – either through building on the Affordable Care Act or transitioning to a fully public system like Medicare For All. Biden has gone on the offensive against Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren over her Medicare for All proposal, calling it unrealistic and unaffordable.
But during his bus tour of Iowa last week, Biden he turned his attention to Buttigieg, who also has proposed a plan that includes a public option.
“He stole it,” Biden told reporters at the time.
Buttigieg countered that he had been discussing a public option since before Biden even entered the race, and plans like his and Biden’s were hardly new in the Democratic Party.
Bennet said it was his they were modeling their own plans on.
“As Bernie says over and over again, he's the guy who wrote the damn bill on Medicare for All. Well, I'm the guy that wrote the damn bill on the public option,” Bennet said.
Bennet also argued that Buttigieg has flip-flopped on health care since entering the race because he had initially appeared to support Medicare for All.
"I'm not sure where Joe Biden, was but he didn't get it done,” Bennet added. "And, I didn't need to take a poll or get ready to run for president to know what I believe about it.”
Bennet, who has struggled to break into the top tier in the Democratic field, said his policy reflected his experience running and winning in a battleground state.
"I'm the only candidate in the race who has actually won two national elections in the swing state,” Bennet said. "When you’ve done that, you learn to say the same thing in a primary that you say in a general election. And you suck it up and tell people what you think and, and in the end I think people respect you for it even if they disagree with your particular position on any given issue."
Pete Buttigieg will allow Netflix CEO to host fundraiser despite charter school support
PITTSBURGH – South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said on Saturday he will allow Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to co-host a fundraiser on his behalf, despite Hastings support for charter schools. Buttigieg made the remarks after his appearance at the MSNBC Public Education Forum.
Buttigieg opposes federal school voucher programs.
“I have no plans to make a change there,” Buttigieg said in response to questions about Hastings' appearance.
Hastings sits on the board of a public charter school and has donated millions of dollars to various educational institutions including charter schools. Buttigieg emphasized that his position on the issue will not change despite the views of those who contribute to his campaign.
“There are 700,000 donors to my campaign,” Buttigieg said. “Some of them may disagree with me on some of those issues, but my stance will not change, including my support for teachers and my support for labor.”
Buttigieg recently opened his closed-door fundraisers to the press amid criticism from Democratic presidential opponents like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
In his K-12 education policy, Buttigieg proposes banning for-profit charter schools and hold public charters schools to the same level of accountability, rigor and oversight as traditional public schools. He’s also emphasized the need for the resources to be fair for schools across the board.
Charter schools have become a hot-topic in the 2020 Democratic race, with most candidates declaring opposition to “for profit” charter schools as candidates look to earn the support of teacher’s unions.
Tom Steyer staffs up in South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Billionaire Tom Steyer is doubling down on the South Carolina ground game for his presidential bid and increasing the size of his campaign throughout the state.
The Steyer campaign currently has over 60 paid directors and organizers on the ground in the state, and plans to add an additional 40 by the end of the year, according to Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, the campaign's South Carolina communications director.
A staff presence of over 100 will ensure that the Steyer campaign has a dominating presence in the state. As of mid-December, the Sanders campaign has the second-largest roster of staffers, with over 50 on the payroll.
“The official title for our organizers are community organizers,” said Brandon Upson, Steyer’s National Organizing Director. “We’re hiring people specifically in the communities that they live in, have been raised in, so that they can organize their neighbors, their family members.”
One of those community organizers, Alonzo Canzater, said he decided to support the campaign after learning more about the investments Steyer himself has made to assist with the water crisis in his own backyard and sponsoring local food drives.
For Canzater, he hopes that this personal investment means a President Steyer wouldn't forget about South Carolina voters.
“A lot of presidents, they try to use the African American community to get those votes, but once they get in there, we don’t see them. But I think Tom is going to stick to his word," Canzater said.
Canzater likened his job to being the “face of the campaign” in South Carolina. “I go to a lot of neighborhoods I grew up in," he said, "just try to push them and encourage them to vote because their vote does count.”
While Steyer has focused on his ground game in South Carolina, other Democratic candidates continue to attack him for spending his personal fortune on staying the race.
“Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — two women senators who, together, won more than 11.5 million votes in their last elections — have been forced out of this race, while billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have been allowed to buy their way in,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote in a fundraising email earlier this month.
Steyer campaign South Carolina state director Jonathan Metcalf pushed back on those assertions.
“The idea of a billionaire may conjure up some image." Metcalf said. "But Tom Steyer is the first person in his family to make money. And then what did he do? He decided to give half of it away to good causes he believes in.”
Metcalf also dismissed the idea that Steyer was buying his way into the race, saying the enthusiasm of their' teams community organizers is “something you really can't put a price tag on.”
Michael Bloomberg releases new piece of his climate change plan
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing his best to catch up in the 2020 Democratic primary plan race. On Friday, Bloomberg released a piece of his climate change program that calls for slashing emissions by 50 percent in the next 10 years, replacing all coal plants in the United States with clean power and stopping new construction of gas plants.
Friday’s proposal is part of a larger goal to get the U.S. to clean energy status “as soon as humanly possible” and “ideally before 2045 or 2050,” according to Bloomberg, who has invested millions of dollars in environmentally-friendly candidates, and causes, for years.
“The president refuses to lead on climate change, so the rest of us must,” Bloomberg said in a statement, released before he was set to hold an event in Northern Virginia to highlight the plan. “We’ve proven that you can transition to clean energy and strengthen the economy at the same time. As president, I'll accelerate our transition to a 100% clean energy economy.”
Some other details:
- Bloomberg’s plan aims to get to 80 percent clean electricity by the end of his second term in office (2028), by phasing out all carbon and health threatening pollution.
- This plan, as many Democratic plans do, will also reinstate emissions standards instituted by former President Barack Obama and then rolled back by President Donald Trump.
- He also proposes quadrupling investment in federal research and development into clean energy to at least $25 billion per year.
- Environmental justice should be “central to decision-making” for federal agencies
- End fossil fuel subsidies and bar fossil fuel leases on federal lands.
- There are also incentives for clean energy projects around the U.S.
Biden releases new Iowa ads on healthcare
DES MOINES, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign began running its eighth television ad in Iowa Friday morning emphasizing the candidate's focus on health care — a top issue for a majority of voters in 2020. The ad, combined with supplemental digital ads, is the latest in a $4 million investment in ad buys in Iowa from November through caucus day on February 3.
"Protect" will air on television in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and on Hulu’s streaming service statewide. It plays like a general election ad, directly hitting President Trump’s effort to “destroy Obamacare,” while touting Biden’s plan to build on that health law and reminding viewers that he helped pass the Affordable Care Act with President Obama “in the first place.” Biden’s health care plan would expand Obamacare by adding a public option but also allowing voters to keep their private insurance if they want it.
"Trust" and another complementary video will run on social media platforms statewide. “Trust” features Charlene Harmon, a supporter from Ankeny, who received a cancer diagnosis but luckily had insurance that covered her recovery. Harmon credits Joe Biden’s empathy when discussing her support.
“I know he understands what we’ve been through,” Harmon says to camera. “To me, that makes him real.”
The second video is an addition to the campaign’s “On the Road with Joe” series, highlighting conversations the former vice president has on the rope line following campaign events, including an interaction where a woman from Davenport told Biden that the ACA saved her son’s life. (Differing from the previous two ads somber soundtrack, this ad also plays out under the song, “High Hopes” by Panic At The Disco!, which is notably Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s anthem on the campaign trail).
The latter two ads emphasize the campaign’s messaging in recent weeks, which is Biden’s empathy and ability to connect with those who have suffered. Along the eight-day “No Malarkey” bus tour route through Iowa, many voters brought up Biden’s empathy as a selling factor. During the bus tour, Biden heavily stressed his commitment to strengthening rural communities by recognizing the difficulty they face in accessing quality health care.
Michael Bloomberg releases medical assessment on health
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg released a recent assessment from his doctor on Thursday, deeming the 77-year-old to be in “outstanding health.” While Bloomberg has had some health issues, for instance atrial fibrillation, those are currently controlled with medicine.
The release comes at a time where fellow 2020 candidates have pushed each other on transparency. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, — a fellow 2020 septuagenarian — released a similar medical assessment last week. Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, have yet to release their own health updates this cycle.
Dr. Stephen Sission of John Hopkins University saw Bloomberg in July 2019 and said in his statement, "Mr. Bloomberg is a 77-year-old man in outstanding health. There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States."
Sisson pointed out a few other things in his assessment of Bloomberg:
- Bloomberg had a coronary stent put in in 2000.
- He takes a blood thinner and medication to control his cholesterol.
- He’s had small skin cancers removed.
Trump campaign says impeachment has 'ignited a flame' under the Trump base
ARLINGTON, Va. — As the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Thursday morning, his senior campaign officials were across the river in Virginia arguing the nearly two and a half month long inquiry has motivated Republicans so fiercely that it “makes our job easier in some ways.”
Pointing to increases in recent fundraising and new volunteers, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed that “pretty much every metric that we have” shows that the president’s base is so “frustrated” and “upset” that Democrats have “ignited a flame underneath” them with the election less than a year away.
“Any time he’s attacked, any time people try to lessen that he’s a legitimate president in any way, his voters fight back. And I think that that is a motivation,” Parscale told reporters at a 2020 briefing near their campaign headquarters in Rosslyn, Va.
That said, senior campaign officials conceded they certainly would rather not have the president impeached because they firmly believe he “did nothing wrong.” They pointed to recent campaign polling in congressional districts of vulnerable Democrats as evidence that more moderate politicians in swing districts who vote for impeachment may be voted out of office come November.
Parscale also said impeachment has helped the campaign fill up rallies easier and that interest is at an all-time high with some events garnering 80,000 to 100,000 signups for arenas that won’t accommodate more than 20,000 (at most). That level of interest, especially from potentially new voters, also helps the campaign suck up first-party data that will be critical to reaching additional voters for potential re-election.
Officials argued they are also seeing a trend in recent months from certain independent voters in battleground states who view impeachment unfavorably and see the House Democrats’ latest actions as overreach. The Trump campaign hopes to capitalize on this in at least 17 states they have identified over the next year.
“We’re really proud of where we are but we’re going to run every day like we’re behind in this race and we’re going to work very hard to try to take advantage of everything possible to get the president a chance to win re-election,” a senior aide said.
Booker campaign plans way forward without appearing at December debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. — On a campaign call with reporters Thursday morning, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign manager Addisu Demissie confirmed that while Booker will not appear on the December debate stage, the campaign still sees a path forward.
“We are not expecting to meet the four-poll threshold or being on the debate stage at this point,” said Demissie.
Demissie critically noted that there have only been four qualifying polls in the few weeks since the November debate, none of which were from one of the first four early states where the Booker campaign says it has focused its investment.
“We still see a path to victory in the Democratic nomination that does not include the December debate stage as a requirement,” he said.
In order to qualify for the December debate, candidates had to reach a polling threshold with 4 percent support in at least four national or early state polls, or 6 percent support in at least two early state polls. Booker did not meet either of those thresholds. The campaign did, however, says it did meet the donor threshold which requires candidates to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors. Candidates have until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday to qualify.
The campaign had previously stated that not making the December debate stage would prompt reevaluation of the campaign's paths and resources. But Demissie cited the following as reasons for a way forward: a financial upswing in past couple of weeks, changes to the 2020 field, increased voter attention and strong ground organization. This is the first debate Booker will not appear at in the cycle.
Demissie took a dig at the two billionaires in the race for buying "name recognition and polling bumps." Philanthropist Tom Steyer qualified for the debate, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not. Bloomberg is not raising money from individual donors but registered at 5 percent in two national polls.
Instead of heading to California for the sixth Democratic debate on Dec. 19, Booker will campaign in Nevada next Wednesday before kicking off a bus tour in Iowa on debate day. The multi-day tour will be open to the press and on the record like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg's, former Vice President Joe Biden's and businessman Andrew Yang's bus tours.
The campaign announced it will also "soon be making a down payment” on a TV and digital ad buy in Iowa starting at half a million dollars to double down on its efforts in the Hawkeye state.
Booker's campaign said it has raised more than $3 million since the Nov. 20 debate, with Demissie indicating this is likely to be the candidate’s best fundraising quarter yet.
Asked if Booker would open fundraisers to the press and disclose bundlers, Demissie told a reporter, “Sure, yeah, wanna come this weekend?” adding the campaign has been working on disclosing its bundlers.
While the December debate will likely be the last Democratic debate before the impeachment trial in the Senate begins, the Booker campaign confirmed that Booker still plans to be in Washington D.C. for the trial and “will do his job no matter the consequences.”
Progressive climate group Sunrise Movement looks to topple three Democratic congressmen
WASHINGTON — The progressive climate group Sunrise Movement is endorsing a slate of insurgent candidates in Democratic primaries Wednesday, the group told NBC News.
The youth-led group, which has made a name for itself since launching in 2017 with confrontational tactics and vocal support for the Green New Deal, is backing three insurgents hoping to defeat entrenched Democratic congressmen, as well as supporting a congressional candidate in a battleground Texas district currently held by a Republican.
The group is throwing its support behind 26-year-old Robert Emmons Jr., who is challenging longtime Chicago Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush. A young former President Barack Obama, in his first political campaign, unsuccessfully challenged Rush in a primary in 2000.
And it's endorsing Morgan Harper, a former lawyer for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who is challenging Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty.
Meanwhile, the group is also hoping for success in a swing district that is expected to be targeted by both parties next year: Texas’ 10th Congressional District, currently held by GOP Rep. Michael McCaul. Sunrise is backing Mike Siegel, who ran an under-funded campaign in last year’s midterms and came within 5 percentage points of McCaul. Next year, though, Siegel is likely to face competition for his party’s nomination.
The group previously endorsed Jessica Cisneros, who is running against moderate Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas.
Sunrise, which has focused its activism on pushing Democrats to be more aggressive in confronting climate change, says its candidates will take action that it says establishment-backed ones won't.
“The scientists are telling us that 2020 is our last opportunity to elect climate leaders that will immediately enact bold, transformational action over the course of the next decade to save our planet. Meanwhile, establishment politicians of both parties are complacent,” said Evan Weber, Political Director of Sunrise Movement. “These insurgent campaigns are a clear indicator of the appetite for an entire new way of doing things.”
Andrew Yang criss-crosses Iowa in bus tour
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Businessman Andrew Yang embarked on a five-day bus tour across Iowa on Tuesday. The tour, billed "A New Way Forward" started in Des Moines and will travel through Grinnell, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Ames, Waverly, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Iowa City.
While on the bus tour, Yang will visit some of his new field offices in Grinnell and Dubuque, and attend events like “Bowling with Andrew Yang” in Davenport and playing basketball against IA-4 congressional candidate J.D. Scholten.
Yang is following the footsteps of other Democratic presidential contenders who went on bus tours to strengthen their foothold in Iowa like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden. California Sen. Kamala Harris also completed a bus tour of Iowa before suspending her presidential campaign.
Yang told reporters that he hopes this bus tour will allow him to not only meet Iowans but to have Iowans meet him and get to know him better.
“What I hope they learn from me is that I'm not a career politician so much as I am a citizen,” Yang said. “I'm a parent and a patriot who decided that we need to have a different approach to solving these problems and that the feedback mechanism between the people of Iowa and Washington, D.C. is broken.”
Yang kicked off the tour in Des Moines in front of the state capitol building in sub-freezing temperatures. Yang campaign staffers set up gas-powered heat lamps and handed out hand warmers to keep Yang supporters warm.
“This is the sort of passion and humanity that no amount of money can buy and there will be a couple other candidates who tried,” Yang said to the crowd. “But if you have money on one side and people on the other, I think people win every day of the week.”
On Tuesday, Yang appeared to qualify for the next Democratic primary debate on Dec. 19. As of now, Yang is the only person of color to qualify for the stage. Yang said he was proud, but not stressed, of being the only racial minority on stage.
“I don't feel undue discomfort, because I've been the lone person of color in any number of settings throughout my life and career, as is probably the case for many people of color who’ve been in certain environments,” Yang said. “So I'm proud, but I certainly don't feel any undue pressure.”
“And I think people will understand that I'm speaking from my own perspective,” Yang added. “I can't speak for every community of color. In a way, acknowledging that might be like one of the bigger responsibilities I might have.”
Yang's wife, Evelyn, will join him throughout the bus tour and his family will be hosting an event billed “An Honest Conversation About Autism” in Iowa city on Saturday. One of Yang’s sons is autistic.
Over the course of five days, Yang is hosting 14 events. When asked if campaigning has been taking a toll on him, Yang said that campaigning can be very difficult on both him and his family.
“It's been very hard on the family, and it's been hard on me personally,” Yang said. “My son, even for this trip he said to me, how long are you going away? And when I told him he was very sad and I hugged him.”
“And I told him a little while ago, daddy has a very big deadline," Yang added. “I told him the deadline is February 3rd, when voting starts here in Iowa.”
Joe Biden releases two immigration-focused plans
LAS VEGAS — Former Vice President Joe Biden released two new immigration-focused policy plans on Wednesday — the first highlighting and building upon the work he did in former President Barack Obama's administration to help curb migration from Central America, and the second proposing immediate ways to undo President Donald Trump’s policies.
Biden’s two plans come after the campaign has tried to increase its outreach to Hispanic communities in recent weeks, like launching "Todos Con Biden." However, the campaign has had to overcome activists protesting his role in standing alongside Obama-era policy to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants and pitching more moderate immigration policies than some of his opponents.
The two plans include a first 100 days component in which Biden will undo what senior campaign advisers describe as “horrific” and “cruel and senseless” policies enacted by President Trump like the separation of parents and children at the border. He would also end for-profit detention centers.
The immigration plan promises to reform the asylum system, surge humanitarian resources to the border, end Trump’s Muslim ban and review Temporary Protected Status for those who have fled a violent country. It would also end the Trump-declared “national emergency” being used to redirect federal dollars to build the border wall.
Biden also pledges to reinstate the DACA program, which would immediately protect and expand opportunities for DREAMers — or adults who migrated to the U.S. as young children. He will also search for “all legal options” to protect their parents, a move activists have previously blamed him and Obama for initially causing family separation. Last week on the campaign trail, Biden said he would look to revive the DAPA program even though it was struck down by the court.
However, it would require legislation to pave a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
After the first 100 days, a Biden administration would spend his first year in office trying to tackle “four pillars”: legislative immigration reform, strengthen communities, steps to secure the border in a sensible manner and focus on the causes of migration in Central America.
Notably, Biden's plan breaks with some of his Democratic opponents who have called for restructuring if not abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Biden instead calls for increased training and oversight of ICE and Customs and Border Protection.
Biden often touts his ability to curb the swell of immigration from Central America after striking a deal between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, also known as the Northern Triangle, by providing economic resources to strengthen their judicial systems and combat violence.
His new plan would redirect spending from the Department of Human Services budget, currently used on detaining asylum seekers, and commit $4 billion over four years on a Central American regional strategy.
Andrew Yang meets polling threshold for December debate in new poll
WASHINGTON – Businessman Andrew Yang appears to have qualified to participate in the December Democratic debate after reaching 4 percent support in a newly-released Quinnipiac University national poll.
His campaign says it has already met the threshold for fundraising for unique donors also necessary for the DNC's criteria for participation in the debate. The final slate of participants won't be official until the Democratic National Committee certifies who has qualified.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still waiting for one more poll to put her on the debate stage, but only garnered 2 percent in the Quinnipiac poll.
Gabbard tweeted on Monday that she wouldn’t participate in the December debate regardless of whether she qualifies.
To participate in the Dec. 19 debate, candidates need to raise money from at least 200,000 unique donors and either hit 4 percent in four national sanctioned polls, or 6 percent in two early-state sanctioned polls. Candidates have until Dec. 12 to reach these thresholds.
As of now six candidates have met the donation and polling thresholds in addition to Yang: former Vice President Joe Biden, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California businessman and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
In the new Quinnipiac poll, Biden and Sanders both increased their support since Quinnipiac’s last national poll in November. Biden sits at 29 percent support at the front of the pack, with Sanders in second place at 17 percent. Warren stayed within a similar range, polling at 15 percent – she was at 14 percent in November’s poll. Buttigieg, however, suffered a steep drop. In November the mayor polled at 16 percent, while now he is at 9 percent support.
In Pennsylvania, Trump supporters fired up ahead of campaign rally
HERSHEY, Penn. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's rally Tuesday night, supporters weigh in on the latest impeachment news:
Top 2020 candidates release housing affordability plans
WASHINGTON — Health care, income inequality and defeating President Donald Trump have dominated the 2020 Democratic primary. But affordable housing has also become a top issue for the campaigns and the top-polling candidates have all addressed the issue on the campaign trail and the debate stage.
Here’s what some of the major Democratic candidates have proposed on affordable housing — including increasing home ownership in African-American and Latino communities.
The centerpiece of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., plan is her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which she initially introduced last year. It proposes building more than 3 million new housing units for low- to middle-income families, providing assistance to “people hurt by federal housing policy failures through two targeted new programs,” and strengthening existing anti-discrimination laws. The plan also incorporates a strategy to combat rising rent prices.
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan is arguably the most ambitious. It calls for creating a protection bureau for housing — the National Fair Housing Agency — as well as investing $32 billion over the next five years to help end homelessness. A majority of that money will go to increasing homelessness assistance grants and providing funding to states and localities for homeless management and social services.
“He sees housing as a human right,” Josh Orton, Sanders’ national policy director and senior adviser, said.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn't released his housing plan yet, but his strategy centers on the Community Homestead Act, which is meant to revitalize abandoned properties and convert them into homes for eligible candidates.
Buttigieg’s national press secretary, Chris Meagher, told NBC News that Buttigieg’s plan will focus on “making housing more affordable in general” and that this issue is definitely a “kitchen table topic.”
This past June at an event for Black Economic Alliance Forum, Buttigieg said, “Let's face the fact that segregation of our neighborhoods didn't just happen. As a matter of fact there are neighborhoods that were integrated 100 years ago that became segregated in the middle of the last century because of federal government policy.”
Current Democratic frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden has yet to issue a comprehensive affordable housing plan. But his campaign says one will be released in the coming weeks.
Statistics back the need for this issue to be a focus of the 2020 race. Homeownership has decline and there's a wide homeownership disparity among racial groups. And benefits often exclude low-income households and renters.
But experts aren’t optimistic that a change in administration will improve the affordable housing crisis.
“For a candidate to pretend they’re going to [change] is disingenuous,” says Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.
Rothstein told NBC News that affordable housing solutions have long been touted around Capitol Hill but none have been implemented. He doubts a new president will take actionable steps.
December Democratic debate stage remains static with new poll
WASHINGTON — Businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have still not qualified for the December Democratic presidential debate after a new poll released just days before the qualifying deadline found them short of the debate's polling threshold.
Yang polled at 3 percent with Democratic voters and leaners in Monmouth University's new national poll, while Gabbard finished with less than 1 percent. Both candidates need one more poll of at least 4 percent in order to qualify for next week's contest.
To qualify for the Dec. 19 debate in California, candidates need to have raised money from at least 200,000 unique donors (and meet state-by-state requirements) as well as hit a polling threshold of either 4 percent in four sanctioned polls or 6 percent in two sanctioned, early-state polls.
Yang and Gabbard both say they've hit that donor threshold — which will be independently verified by the Democratic National Committee before they officially set the field. But both candidates are short one poll, and they have until Dec. 12 at 11:59 p.m. to qualify.
Gabbard has already signaled she won't participate in the debate whether she ends up qualifying or not.
The new Monmouth poll keeps the roster of likely debate participants static, and while billionaire Michael Bloomberg hit the threshold with 5 percent, he's not soliciting individual donations. That makes it impossible for him to participate in any debate unless the Democratic National Committee removes the unique-donor threshold for a future debate.
In that poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field with 26 percent, followed by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders at 21 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 17 percent and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8 percent.
Buttigieg campaign opens fundraisers to reporters, will release names of McKinsey clients
DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg’s campaign announced Monday that it will now open its fundraisers to the press and release a list of his campaign bundlers. A short while later, McKinsey and Company said in a statement to NBC News that it will allow the South Bend, Indiana, mayor to release the names of his clients from his time working at the worldwide consulting firm.
The announcements came after days of heightened scrutiny over Buttigieg’s closed door fundraisers and a nondisclosure agreement that has prevented him from naming which clients he worked for while at McKinsey from 2007-2010.
In a statement, campaign manager Mike Schmuhl wrote, “In a continued commitment to transparency, we are announcing today that our campaign will open fundraisers to reporters, and will release the names of people raising money for our campaign.”
Shortly after that, McKinsey and Co. responded to an NBC News request stating that the firm would allow Buttigieg to disclose who his clients were during his time at the firm. Buttigieg has been publicly calling on the company to release him from the NDA over the last several days.
A spokesman for the firm wrote in a statement, “After receiving permission from the relevant clients, we have informed Mayor Buttigieg that he may disclose the identity of the clients he served while at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Buttigieg have spent the past few days jostling over the transparency of each other’s campaigns. Buttigieg has called on Warren to release tax returns from her time in the private sector and Warren challenged Buttigieg to open his fundraisers and disclose his McKinsey clients.
Sunday night, the Warren campaign released a case-by-case breakdown of how the senator was paid for her past legal work.
Schmuhl says Buttigieg’s fundraiser will be open to the press starting Wednesday and a list of the people who fundraise on his behalf will be released within the week. As for the list of his McKinsey clients, Buttigieg’s senior communications adviser Lis Smith tweeted that the campaign will “be releasing the list soon.”
Bloomberg is spending big on Facebook ads too
WASHINGTON — There's been a whole lot of coverage of billionaire Michael Bloomberg's massive television spending (almost $59 million so far) for his presidential campaign.
But he's also outpacing the field on Facebook too.
From Nov. 24 through Dec. 5, Bloomberg's campaign has spent $1.97 million on Facebook, according to the platform's ad tracking website.
That's more than fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, who's spent $1.3 million over that same period; Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's spent about $400,000; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who's spent $382,000; and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who's spent $176,000.
President Trump's campaign has spent $667,000 over that period.
Recent Bloomberg ads include a big push promoting open field organizer jobs, pushing short biographical spots, touting his commitment to climate change, and re-upping clips of his initial campaign ads.
Elizabeth Warren releases detailed breakdown of income from legal work
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a case-by-case breakdown of how much she was paid for her past legal work Sunday night, totaling just under $2 million over more than 30 years and capping off a days-long back-and-forth over transparency with 2020 rival, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The Warren campaign broke down the fifty-plus cases by Warren’s role on them, with her ranging from acting as counsel, to working as a mediator. Many of the cases for which she wrote amicus briefs, for instance, were done pro bono.
While the Buttigieg team has been calling on Warren to release her tax returns for this period of time but Warren’s campaign countered Sunday that tax returns wouldn’t get to the income question that Buttigieg’s camp is seeking — those returns don’t itemize the sources of income, for instance. Warren’s team adds that about half of this information was available in public records, but they worked to include more beyond that. Most cases are accounted for in here.
“Any candidate who refuses to provide basic details about his or her own record and refuses to allow voters or the press to understand who is buying access to their time and what they are getting in return will be seen by voters as part of the same business-as-usual politics that voters have consistently rejected,” Warren Communications Director Kristen Orthman said in a statement.
Biden's campaign touts success of 'No Malarkey' Iowa bus tour
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Joe Biden's campaign is touting its successes from the former vice president's “No Malarkey” bus tour through Iowa, saying it helped to solidify support in this key early state where he has seen his poll numbers slip in recent months.
In a congratulatory email obtained by NBC News, Deputy Campaign Manager Pete Kavanaugh told staff that Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden met with more than 3,300 caucus-goers over 19 stops throughout the state. Biden held several meet and greets with voters on the week-long trip, a recently new campaign strategy they believe leverages his strength in one-on-one interactions with voters.
“In a state that prizes — and rewards — the personal interactions that come with retail politics, there’s simply no one better at it than Joe Biden and this week we saw why,” Kavanaugh writes.
Looking beyond the campaign trail, the campaign also noted that their digital video showing world leaders laughing at President Donald Trump during the NATO meeting became the campaign’s most watched social media video with 12 million views across platforms.
Citing growing enthusiasm, Kavanaugh adds that the campaign is confident that Biden is “uniquely positioned to compete — and meet the delegate thresholds — in all 1,678 precincts across the state."
Iowans NBC News spoke with over the past week were genuinely pleased to see Biden visit mid-sized and rural towns throughout the state that he had not previously visited. However, it’s remains unclear if Biden’s visit will help convince Iowans to support him over the current frontrunner in the Hawkeye State, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Kathleen Delate, an agriculture professor at Iowa State University thanked Biden for making the trip to Ames, Iowa, but suggested that his arrival could be a little too late now that Buttigieg is the “shiny new thing” drawing attention because he has stumped in Iowa more often than Biden.
Biden denied her premise that he has not spent much time in Iowa, saying that he has already traveled over 10,000 miles throughout his 15trips in the state. He said he’ll make up for lost time for jumping into the race later than most candidates, emphasizing his deep belief that winning the state is a recognition of “democracy beginning in Iowa.”
Kavanaugh told staff that there’s still a lot of ground to cover in Iowa, predicting that the race will come down to the final days leading to the February 3rd caucuses.
“There are 58 short days until February 3rd, and a lot of work to do. Let’s go win this thing."
Bennet doubles down on pitch for moderates in New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H. — A new strategy memo from Sen. Michael Bennet’s, D-Colo., presidential campaign to supporters and donors spells out how his campaign will place a greater emphasis on New Hampshire leading up to the primary in February where the race remains fluid and independent or unaffiliated voters make up the biggest part of the electorate.
The memo, exclusively obtained by NBC News, highlights Bennet’s push for a moderate message in a field crowded with progressive proposals.
“The ideological candidates will likely wash out — as they historically tend to do — when voters truly consider which candidate can realistically win in a general election,” the memo says.
“Voters continue to struggle to find a standard-bearer who inspires confidence in their ability to win against Trump and lead the country forward,” the memo adds. “Will the always-sensible voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, with electability front of mind, nominate an electorally untested small town mayor; a senator from a coastal blue state who puts ideology over progress; or a past generation of leadership?”
“I don't think the democrats are going to beat Donald Trump with a bunch of empty promises of free stuff,” Bennet told NBC News after an event in Concord, NH earlier today, singling out Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as fitting into that criticism.
Despite currently polling in low single digits in the state, Bennet insists that his positions and what he presents as a candidate will ultimately impress New Hampshire voters. Earlier today, Bennet launched a digital ad to announce that he would be holding 50 New Hampshire town halls in the 10 weeks leading up to the primary as he kicked off a five-day swing in the state — an ambitious schedule that could be modified if Bennet has to attend impeachment hearings in January, his campaign said.
Multiple noteworthy New Hampshire political figures told NBC News that they like Bennet, and his more moderate positions compared to some of the other Democratic candidates, but aren’t quite willing or able to throw their support behind him due to skepticism of his ability to beat out the current four-way split of frontrunners in the state.
“We, of course, recognize our current standing in the race,” the memo adds, “though we are within the margin of error of many candidates who are better known — and, in recent weeks, polls have shown us tied or ahead of half the candidates who were on the recent debate stage. “
“I think there's a lot of skepticism among people in New Hampshire about whether or not the four front runners could actually beat Donald Trump,” Bennet said. “And that's good for me because I think I can beat Donald Trump."
Bennet is not the only candidate looking at New Hampshire as an opportunity to break through. In recent weeks, businessman Andrew Yang has expanded his New Hampshire operation to 30 staffers and eight offices in the state, a 9th opening later this month. Similarly, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is in the midst of a two-week swing through the Granite State, even renting houses to accommodate her and her team during the trip.
“Iowa remains important to our effort,” the memo said. “We believe our support in Iowa will shift significantly only after Bennet’s position is elevated nationally, so we are focusing our resources accordingly.”
The memo details tangibly how Bennet plans to woo Granite States leading up to voting day, by undertaking aggressive digital and mail programs that target “soft Democrats and undeclared voters” who participate in Democratic primaries to invite them to town halls and further introduce them to Bennet as a candidate.
“My objective is to make sure that I've stayed here until people in New Hampshire started making up their minds and I think that's only beginning right now in New Hampshire,” Bennet said. “I'm just going to keep pounding the truth into this campaign. That's what we have to do.”
Independent Alaska Senate candidate looks to beat the odds
WASHINGTON — Al Gross is a political neophyte. By trade, he’s a fisherman and orthopedic surgeon who says he once killed a grizzly bear that was sneaking up on him.
Now, he’s trying to take down even bigger game, looking to oust Alaska incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2020, and doing so as an independent. If Gross succeeds, he'll be the fourth senator to be first elected as an independent.
Since 1913, only 17 senators served while not a member of one of the two major parties. Of those, only 8 were technically "independents." The others have served as members of minor parties — Progressive, Farmer-Labor and Conservative — or have loosely aligned with a major party, styling themselves "Independent Democrats". For example, Washington's Miles Poindexter and Wisconsin’s Robert La Follette, Jr. they both left the both left the Republican Party to joined the more liberal splinter group, the progressives. Eventually both men rejoined the Republican Party.
Most U.S. senators who have been elected and served as independents were first elected within the two-party structure, but later left their parties over ideological disagreements.
Take Nebraska’s George Norrisand Oregon’s Wayne Morse. They were both elected as Republicans but were far more left-leaning than their colleagues. Norris served five terms as a Republican in the House and then another four terms as a Republican in the Senate. But he supported President Franklin Delano Rooselvelt's New Deal and won his final term in 1936 as an independent.
Morse, elected in 1944, often clashed with his party on labor issues and disaffiliated in 1952. For two years he served as an independent but was left without a side in the Senate to sit on, so he once put a folding chair in the chamber's center aisle. In 1955 he became a Democrat and served for another two terms.
Perhaps the most notable recent example of a consequential Senate independent was Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords. After two terms in the Senate, he broke with Republicans in 2001 over the party's lack of support for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. When he chose to be an independent who caucused with Democrats, he gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the chamber.
If Gross succeeds in his independent bid, he'll join the ranks of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King who all won their first senate election as independents. However, Thurmond, a well-known segregationist who had previously ran for president as an independent, won his first senate campaign by waging a write-in campaign in protest of Democratic state officials who didn't hold a primary in a special election. He promised to caucus with Democrats if elected. He later served as both a Democrat and then a Republican.
Gross' trajectory could mirror Sanders' in his first Senate win in 2006. Sanders won but declined the Democratic nomination, so he only had to run against the Republican candidate. Gross has already won the endorsement of the Alaska Democratic Party and the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
While Gross out-raised Sullivan in the last quarter, he faces an uphill climb in the conservative state. But, if another independent senator can join the Senate's ranks, Alaska may be the place to do it. The state has an unusually high tolerance for unorthodox political arrangements. Alaskans elected an independent governor in 2014, and the state’s lower house is currently controlled by a bipartisan coalition and an independent speaker.
In 2010 the state was the site of only the third successful write-in Senate campaign in history, when Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski eked out a victory in the three-person general election with less than 40 percent of the vote. Six years later, she won another term with under 45 percent in an election that saw four candidates with double-digit vote counts.
If there’s anywhere Al Gross can make history, it might just be there.
Warren releases health records from yearly physical
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released the results of her latest yearly physical Friday, along with a letter from her longtime doctor stating that the Massachusetts senator is in “excellent health” and “there are no medical conditions or health problems that would keep her from fulfilling the duties of the President of the United States.”
In addition to the letter from Dr. Beverly Woo, Warren’s campaign released results of blood work and routine lab tests. Dr. Woo points out that the 70 year-old's only medical condition is hypothyroidism, common in millions of Americans. The results are from Warren’s latest physical — done earlier this year, in January.
While Warren’s clean bill of health may help reassure voters about her transparency and physical condition, it’s also likely to re-ignite calls for her fellow septuagenarian contenders to release their own health-related materials.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, has promised to release his medical records to the public “before there’s a first vote.” Asked back in September about concerns of his acuity, Biden replied: “What the hell concerns?” before asking the reporter who made the inquiry if he wanted to wrestle.
“I mean there’s no reason for me not to release my medical records,” Biden said at the time.
Senator Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in October and has similarly promised to release his medical records at some point. “I want to make it comprehensive,” he told the Associated Press in late October. “The answer is I will, probably by the end of the year.” Sanders’ campaign manager later specified that the Independent Vermont senator would release his medical records by the end of December.
During his 2016 bid, Sanders did release a letter from his doctor that deemed him “in overall very good health.”
Cory Booker pushes need for diverse coalition in 2020 race
DES MOINES, IA — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., warned Democrats in a speech Thursday that the struggles of minority candidates are "a problem" that could hurt the party's ability to engage the voters it needs to defeat President Trump in 2020.
Praising California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the presidential primary this week, Booker argued that the issue goes deeper than just one candidate.
“It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency that has more billionaires in it than black people,” Booker said during one of his first more formal speeches Des Moines Thursday morning.
“This is not about one candidate. It is about the diverse coalition that is necessary to beat Donald Trump."
“That is the story of how we beat bullies and bigots and demagogues and the powerful, the so-called powerful in every generation. It's the story of America," he added.
The audience cheered on Booker as he echoed a famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote, modernizing the context to his typical message of unity.
“We're all in this together; injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Booker said. “In America, there is not a black destiny or a white destiny or rural destiny and a suburban destiny, there is one American destiny.”
While Harris had qualified for this month's debate, her departure means that the six candidates who have already qualified are all white.
Booker is the top-polling black candidate in the race right now — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recently entered the race, but has so far gained little traction — but he's still on the outside looking into the December debate. He's hit the party's donor threshold, but still needs to hit 4 percent in four qualifying polls or 6 percent in two qualifying early-state polls.
Businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are each one poll away from qualifying, while the rest of the field has a long way to go.
During a conversation with reporters after the event, Booker expressed that a successful candidate needs to engage African American, Latinx, and Asian American voters.
“We need to make sure that we have a person that can inspire a coalition,” he said, “where everybody feels energized and excited. And if you can’t do that, please get out of this race.”
And he expressed frustration with polling, noting that he’s often just one percentage point from reaching qualifying polls for the debate stage (which equates to just a handful of people) and expressed that the success of a campaign shouldn’t be based on “a 400 person sample size and three people,” but that the national press should be looking at his energy on the ground in Iowa.
John Kerry endorses Joe Biden's presidential bid
WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is throwing his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential bid.
Kerry praised Biden in a statement released by the Biden campaign on Thursday, where he said "there’s never been a time more urgent for leadership at home."
“I believe Joe Biden is the President our country desperately needs right now, not because I’ve known Joe so long, but because I know Joe so well. I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart," he wrote.
"Joe is uniquely the person running for president who can beat Donald Trump and get to work on day one at home and in the world with no time to waste."
Kerry will campaign with Biden on Friday in Iowa and then travel with the former vice president to New Hampshire on Sunday.
The endorsement comes as Biden has amplified his qualifications to be commander-in-chief given his extensive experience in foreign policy. On Wednesday, his campaign released a video hitting President Trump on foreign policy and arguing "the world is laughing at President Trump."
Kerry has a long history with Biden — both not only served together in the Obama administration, but in the Senate, both on the Foreign Relations Committee. When Biden left the Senate to join the White House, Kerry succeeded him as the chairman of that committee.
With his deep relationships on Capitol Hill, Biden is outpacing his Democratic peers in endorsements from sitting lawmakers too. He's backed by 22 congressional representatives, five senators and three sitting governors — more of each category, and more endorsements in total, than any other candidate in the race.
Buttigieg is up in the polls, but lagging in endorsements
WASHINGTON — While South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has won a few notable endorsements in recent days (from progressive veterans group Vote Vets and a few former Obama administration officials), he’s so far struggled to gain support from prominent members of his party.
Buttigieg has picked up endorsements from just three House Democrats, and no U.S. senators or governors have publicly said they stand behind him. For months, Virginia Rep. Don Beyer was Buttigieg’s lone congressional endorsement – until last week, when Indiana Rep. Peter Visclosky and New York Rep. Kathleen Rice backed the mayor for the Democratic nomination.
After surging in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, Buttigieg is now among the top four contenders in the crowded primary race, but his fellow frontrunners have continually outpaced him in endorsements.
Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field, with 30 total endorsements from House members, senators and governors, according to NBC News’ tally of FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker. Meanwhile, the other members of the Top 4 – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – clock in at 12 and six major endorsements, respectively.
Before she dropped out of the race Tuesday, California Sen. Kamala Harris had racked up 19 major endorsements, putting her in second place. With 13 endorsements, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker actually leads both Warren and Sanders.
The only candidates who made the board but have fewer congressional endorsements than Buttigieg are former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney – with two apiece.
Here’s how Buttigieg’s endorsements stack up against those of his competitors:
Biden video chides Trump after NATO leaders' hot mic moment
WASHINGTON — Almost as soon as President Trump returned from his overseas trip, Joe Biden tweeted out a new video pointing to Wednesday's hot-mic moment with NATO leaders to argue that the world isn't taking Trump seriously.
The video includes footage from a Wednesday hot-mic moment with NATO leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron referencing Trump's long press conferences, as well as 2018 footage of the United Nations General Assembly laughing after Trump touted his achievements.
“The world sees Trump for what he is — insincere, ill-informed, corrupt, dangerously incompetent and incapable, in my view, of world leadership,” Biden says in the video.
“And if we give Donald Trump four more years, we’ll have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America’s standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together.”
The ad closes with pictures of Biden, as the words "We need a leader the world respects" flash on the screen.
Shortly after the Biden campaign released the video, Trump's campaign said in a tweet that: "Of course the leaders of foreign countries wish Joe Biden were president — they'd love to continue ripping off our country!"
Reporter's Notebook: President Trump's scrapped NATO press conference
LONDON — President Donald Trump’s oversees travels are never short on unscripted moments. But the president's decision to scrap a scheduled press conference, after NATO meetings ended, with reporters waiting in the room for it to start was a surprising move, even for Trump.
Early in the morning Wednesday, dozens of reporters were bused out by the White House to the location of the NATO gatherings being held more than an hour from London to attend the event.
Two hours before the press conference was scheduled to start, television crews were in place and dozens of reporters were seated in the room where the event would be held when the president, unprompted, suggested he might not have a press conference.
“We will go directly back, I think we have done plenty of press conferences unless you’re demanding a press conference, but I think we’ve answered plenty of questions,” President Trump told the traveling press pool, the small group of reporters that travel with him, during a photo opportunity with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump had spent about two hours over the course of the previous day taking questions from the press pool. But that small group consisting of about 13 journalists is no substitute for the full White House press corp which includes hundreds of reporters from a range of media outlets.
The president’s remark about the press conference set off mass confusion for the next hour among White House staff, both with the president and with the press, who didn’t know whether he was serious about the change of plans. Reporters were sent scrambling to figure out what was happening and sources were unreachable.
Even after Trump had suggested the press conference was off, NATO staff on-site and security continued to prepare for the president’s arrival, at one point setting up a rope line for additional security in front of the stage where he was set to speak.
It wasn’t until the president tweeted an hour later that reporters and staff were told by the president the event was off. At the time, dozens of reporters were seated in the room where it was to be held and others were waiting at a media center for staff to escort them over.
Following the scrapped press conference, Trump was also overheard mocking what he expected the media’s reaction to be during the same meeting where Trump complimented himself on his jab at Trudeau.
“Oh. And then you know what they’ll say?” Trump said. “‘He didn’t do a press conference! He didn’t do a press conference!’”
As Trump was preparing to leave, other leaders, including Macron and Trudeau, held their own press conferences — giving them a moment to look presidential on the world stage that Trump had denied himself of.
Sally Bronston contributed.
Joe Biden says he'd consider Kamala Harris for VP pick
AMES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden has often said on the campaign trail that he would prefer to pick a woman as his vice presidential pick — on Wednesday he went a step further and said former 2020 competitor Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., would be on his list to consider.
“Of course I would. Look Senator Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be. I mean it sincerely. I talked to her yesterday,” he said. “She's solid, she can be president someday herself, she can be vice president, she could go on to be a Supreme Court justice, she could be attorney general. I mean she has enormous capability.”
Biden and Harris' relationship became more strained after Harris attacked Biden on his position on busing during the first Democratic debate in June. The pair first met when Biden’s late son Beau was attorney general of Delaware and Harris held the same position in California.
On Wednesday, Biden indicated he has moved past that moment.
“I’m not good at keeping hard feelings,” he said while boarding his ‘No Malarkey’ bus.
Swelling staff size and shrinking media spending predated Harris' exit from presidential race
WASHINGTON — When California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign on Tuesday, she made it clear she felt her cash-strapped organization could no longer support a bid for president.
"Over the last few days, I’ve come to one of the hardest decisions of my life. So here’s the deal, guys. My campaign for president simply does not have the financial resources to continue — and the financial resources we need to continue," she said in a video posted to Twitter.
"I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it has become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.
There had been signs as of late that Harris' campaign was struggling — she cut staff this fall as her campaign sought to reset by shifting many of its resources to Iowa, and a recent New York Times story cited interviews with "more than 50 current and former campaign staff members and allies" to paint a picture of a floundering operation.
While finances are likely a piece of a larger puzzle (and we won't see Harris' fourth-quarter books until early next year), a look through campaign spending reports sheds light on what Harris meant when she pointed the finger at a dwindling bank account.
Harris jumped into the race as one of the best-funded and highest-polling candidates, an early frontrunner in the months before it was certain that former Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race.
She spent the first three months of her campaign in third place in the RealClearPolitics polling average and raised more money from individuals ($12 million) than any other candidate except Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in the first quarter of 2019.
Harris kept up that pace with a robust fundraising schedule, one that kept her from pivotal early states for significant stretches.
And at her campaign's nadir (after her viral clash with Biden on the June debate stage on the issue of race and busing), she flirted with that second-place spot behind Biden.
That marquee moment helped to fill the campaign's coffers — she raised almost $2 million during just the day after the June debate. And the campaign used those resources to massively expand the number of salaried staff from about 160 by the end of June to about 315 by the end of October, according to an NBC News analysis of FEC reports.
But such a massive staff can be a strain on resources, as indicated by the Harris campaign's late October announcement that it was cutting staff in order to "effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the caucus," as campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a memo.
Another sign of Harris' struggle could be seen in her media spending.
The campaign spent just $562,000 on TV and radio advertising over her entire campaign, millions behind the likes of Biden, Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had at one point been fighting with Harris for a top polling spot.
In fact, her campaign hadn't run a television advertisement since Sept. 6, according to media-tracker Advertising Analytics.
And the situation on Facebook was dire too. She spent just $32,000 for ads on the platform since early October, virtually disappearing from the platform in her campaign's final weeks. By comparison, billionaire Tom Steyer spent $4.3 million over that span, while Buttigieg and Warren both spent more than $800,000.
Outside allies were moving to give the California senator reinforcements — the pro-Harris super PAC People Standing Strong booked more than $500,000 in pro-Harris ads Tuesday morning.
But by Tuesday afternoon, with their candidate officially out of the race, the group began cancelling those buys.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp taps Kelly Loeffler to fill Sen. Isakson's seat
WASHINGTON — Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Wednesday tapped business executive Kelly Loeffler as his pick to fill outgoing Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat, angering some of the President Trump's allies who were hoping Kemp would choose Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., instead.
Fox News host and close ally of the president Sean Hannity this week described Loeffler as a "RINO", or Republican In Name Only" while asking why Kemp would appoint Loeffler over Collins who has been a strong defender of the president throughout the impeachment hearings.
Loeffler, however, seems poised to introduce herself as a strong supporter of the president.
In a prepared statement on the appointment, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Loeffler will say, "I’m a lifelong conservative. Pro-Second Amendment. Pro-military. Pro-wall. And pro-Trump." Loeffler has never run for office or served in government.
Collins has not closed the door on running for the seat in 2020 against Loeffler, telling reporters in November he has heard from those "encouraging" him to run for statewide office and he is "strongly" listening.
Loeffler will be only the second female senator from Georgia. The first, Rebecca Latimer Felton, was the first woman to occupy a seat in the Senate but served for just one day.
Senate Republicans have welcomed the pick. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, "Ms. Loeffler has an impressive record in business and community leadership. I am confident she is well prepared to continue Sen. Isakson’s historic legacy of advocating for veterans, strengthening our national defense, and fighting for middle-class families."
And the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Loeffler was a "phenomenal pick."
"Her business acumen and leadership gives Georgia a unique and valuable voice in the U.S. Senate who can help President Trump and our Republican majority continue to bolster a record-breaking economy, strengthen our military and confirm Constitutionalist judges," the NRSC said in a statement.
The president has not yet weighed in on the appointment. Isakson is leaving his seat at the end of the month due to health concerns, and Loeffler will be up for reelection next November.
Pete Buttigieg earns endorsement from VoteVets PAC
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg Wednesday received the endorsement of the progressive VoteVets PAC.
“The number one priority has to be beating Donald Trump,” said Jon Soltz, chair of VoteVets. “We need a candidate who will win. Bar none, Pete gives us the best shot at doing just that. It is time to rally around him, and stop the walking, talking national security threat that is Donald Trump.”
Soltz went on to say that a veteran like Buttigieg gives Democrats the best shot to win in 2020 because, "Veterans can win voters in the purple and red areas of the country that other Democrats cannot."
The only other veteran in the Democratic contest is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
This endorsement means Buttigieg now has the support of a Super PAC behind him to help fund his campaign. Of the four top polling candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is the only one who does not have an outside organization in a position to spend money on her behalf.
VoteVets will immediately cut a maximum donation check to Pete 2020, according to the press release, and will utilize its social media networks and email list to support the campaign’s message.
“Further plans to energize veterans and military families across the country will be unveiled as the campaign moves ahead,” the group said in the statement.
Last month, Buttigieg told NBC News he would not take “corporate PAC money.”
“I also think it is really important that there be transparency in terms of people understanding who your supporters are which the reporting system creates but is why dark money is such a problem when you are looking at what goes on at the Super PACs,” he added.
However in October, Buttigieg said in an interview with Snapchat that he didn't endorse Warren's plan to refuse any money from high-dollar donors in a general election.
"We're not going to beat [President Trump] with pocket change.” Buttigieg said. “I think you need the full spectrum of support in order to compete, especially if we want to go against someone like Donald Trump."
Pete Buttigieg looks to win over black voters during Carolina swing
ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Presidential hopeful South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg dismissed his low polling figures among nonwhite voters as a consequence of being “new on the scene," to a room of predominantly black South Carolinians on Tuesday.
“I know that as somebody who is new on the scene I got to earn that trust. We have to have those conversations. We got to share our own city's story where we have had the good, the bad and the in-between in terms of the life of our own city," Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg is leading polls in Iowa and hovering near the top of polls in New Hampshire. But in South Carolina, he's struggling to gain traction. On Tuesday, he finished a three-day swing through the Carolinas, in an effort to expand his reach.
Buttigieg, like other contenders in the Democratic race are struggling to gain traction with African-American voters. In a Quinnipiac national poll released last week, former Vice President Joe Biden maintained a large lead with black voters with 43 percent support, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in second with only 11 percent. Buttigieg garnered just 4 percent support among black voters.
While speaking to a a group in Allendale County, S.C., where three-quarters of the population is African-American, Buttigieg wasn't the first speaker attendees wanted to engaged with. Willa Jennings, the county party chairwoman, directed the group’s opening question to Buttigieg’s guest at the meeting: South Bend Councilwoman Sharon McBride.
“Could you tell us some of the things that Mayor Pete has done in South Bend to benefit the citizens in your city?” Jennings queried. "We go out and vote in full force, but everybody forget about us and they don't come back anymore."
McBride asserted that Buttigieg pushed to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, initiated a study on disparities in the cities among women and minorities, and pressed for increased investments in city housing infrastructure.
Jennings, taking the microphone back, then turned to Buttigieg: “I hear a lot about you don't have support from African Americans. I just want to know why you don't have that support, and where did they get—where did the news media get that idea from that you don't have support?”
Buttigieg acknowledged, in part, that he was one of the candidates at “five percent or less” among black voters in the “last poll.” He followed, “But I don't think that's permanent."
Earlier in the day, Buttigieg stopped at a farm owned by Sophia Bowman in Canadys, S.C. After her meeting Buttigieg, Bowman said that she is inclined to vote for the mayor. She said it reminded her of seeing Bill Clinton in 1992. She noted they both "spoke with clarity.”
“If other South Carolinians get to hear him, I think he’s got a chance,” Bowman rationalized. “Priming the pump. Us, here in the South, [we are] regular people. It takes awhile for us to like you.”
But some younger voters say they are looking for more from Buttigieg’s efforts to build a closer relationship with communities of color.
During a visit to South Carolina State University, a historically black university, Charles Patton a 22-year-old senior pulled the mayor aside about an answer Buttigieg gave during the November debate in which he referenced his experience as a gay man when asked about the systemic oppression communities of color have endured.
“Sometimes when you speak I hear what you say when you talk about your experience as a gay man and how you got the right to marry and all those things, but it comes across as you comparing struggles,” Patton said.
Later, Patton told NBC News, "When you compare struggles, you're almost erasing the struggle or, or the experience of being black in America and you almost diminish it because, yes, you are gay, but you're still a white man in America, and he knows that."
The Buttigieg campaign launched a $2 million ad buy across South Carolina on Tuesday intended to juice up voters’ familiarity with the mayor. The latest Quinnipiac poll out of the state showed that 47 percent of South Carolina voters are still not familiar enough with Buttigieg to form an opinion.
That extends outside of South Carolina, too.
In neighboring North Carolina, where voters will weigh in on Super Tuesday, Almertia Williams, a consistent voter, told NBC News this summer that she was eyeing the candidacies of Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. When NBC News asked about Buttigieg she said she "did not" know he was running.
“You got to show up, and you got to show up in places that maybe haven’t heard from campaigns for awhile,” Buttigieg told NBC News after a Sunday church service in North Carolina. “We take the opportunity and that obligation seriously. And you’ll continue to see that from us.”
NBC's Matt Wargo contributed.
Incoming Dem chair on the 2020 gov races: “I think we’re going to have a good year”
WASHINGTON — The upcoming elections in 2020 will bring us the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the general-election presidential contest and the battle for control of Congress.
It also will feature 11 contests for governor in states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana and Washington.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the incoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association, says he’s bullish about his party’s chances in next year’s gubernatorial contests, building upon Democrats’ successes in 2017 (when Murphy won his race), in 2018 (when Democrats picked up seven governorships) and in 2019 (when they won in Kentucky and Louisiana).
“I think we’re going to have a good year,” Murphy said in an interview with NBC News on Monday afternoon.
“I think it’s a combination of outstanding candidates, speaking to the kitchen-table issues that folks care about,” he added in explaining Democrats’ recent successful campaigns. “I think it’s a statement also that governors have never mattered more.”
“So with all of the craziness that’s going on in Washington, governors are not only where the progress is being made in an affirmative, positive sense. But they’re also the last line of defense.”
Asked to reconcile those kitchen-table issues with his party’s impeachment proceedings against President Trump in Washington, Murphy said that Democrats and their candidates can do both at the same time.
“I am proud of the process that [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi initiated on this impeachment track,” he stated.
“By the same token, I’m the governor of New Jersey. So let me get back to moving the needle on stuff that I know I can move the needle on.”
Asked about Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who suspended his presidential campaign on Monday and can't run for an additional gubernatorial term thanks to term limits, Murphy said he’s surprised that a Democratic governor – either current or former – hasn’t “caught fire” in the 2020 presidential race.
“On both sides of the aisle, there’s a long history of governors who have gone on to be president or vice president, and I’m a little surprised that a governor on our side hasn’t caught fire,” Murphy noted.
“But having said that, we have extraordinary candidates. We have an extraordinary field.”
Murphy has endorsed fellow Garden State politician and Sen. Cory Booker in the 2020 presidential race.
“I came out of the blocks on day one for Cory Booker … and I’m staying with Cory as long as Cory is in,” he said. “But I’m going to be for whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be, period.”
The marquee gubernatorial contests of 2020 will be in North Carolina (where Dem Gov. Roy Cooper is running for re-election), in Montana (with the race to replace Bullock), in New Hampshire (where GOP Gov. Chris Sununu is running for re-election) and in Vermont (where GOP Gov. Phil Scott is running for re-election).
While Murphy and the DGA are bullish about their prospects in 2020, officials at the Republican Governors Association counter that Republicans are defending governorships in GOP-friendly states like Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
They also point out that New Hampshire’s Sununu and Vermont’s Scott won office in 2016 (when Hillary Clinton carried those blue states) and in 2018 (in a strong Democratic cycle).
And the RGA believes Montana is theirs for the taking, given Trump’s 20-point win the state in 2016.
“We feel very bullish about flipping Montana,” Dave Rexrode, the RGA’s executive director, told NBC News.
Klobuchar endorsed by former Bullock backer in Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa — Just one day after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., scooped up an endorsement from a prominent former Bullock backer, Iowa State Rep. Bruce Bearinger.
During his campaign, Bullock consistently touted his record of winning in a Republican-heavy, rural state and his policy views that were seen as moderate in the wide Democratic field as proof of his ability to win the general election. Klobuchar also occupies much of that same territory and is often described as a moderate with a record in dealing with rural issues. She sits on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and reminds voters at campaign events that she’s won “every race, every place, every time.”
Bearinger, who represents the rural population of Oelwein in Northeast Iowa, pointed to Klobuchar’s bipartisan track record and her knowledge of agricultural issues in expressing his support.
“Amy understands that to win in 2020, and for the next President to govern successfully, our party has to reach out to voters who felt overlooked in 2016, particularly in rural America,” Bearinger said in a statement to NBC News.
Bearinger was previously drawn to Bullock’s commitment to rural America, highlighting such in his original endorsement of the governor: “Steve understands the unique hardships we face — in our schools, hospitals and farms. Working with a legislature more Republican than our own, he’s proven he can bring those priorities across the finish line."
Bullock suspended his campaign Monday morning, after failing to qualify for multiple national debate stages.
Klobuchar proposes expansion of national service programs
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Ahead of her 19th trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is rolling out a national service policy plan that seeks to create more service opportunities and enhance accessibility for programs across communities and the country at large.
Klobuchar’s two-page plan centers on three key areas to support existing national service programs:
- Investing in AmeriCorps, a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Peace Corps
- Establishing National Volunteer Programs
- Fixing and Expanding Public Service Loan Forgiveness
In order to further invest in existing programs and establish new ones, Klobuchar’s plan calls for investing in programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps by increasing the number of service positions and for targeting the opportunities towards high school students, 1-2 year degree college students or those with vocational training certifications.
She also is seeking to establish a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps — a climate national service program based off of an idea initially put forward by former presidential candidate and Washington Governor Jay Inslee — to recruit an additional 50,000 people “to address the impacts of climate change and create the climate resilience workforce of the future.”
Her plan also calls for establishing national volunteer programs, including a part-time volunteer service program centered on emergency response and disaster-relief training, as well as expanding the National Care Corps to support those who are working as caregivers by providing benefits and other support for costs.
Finally Klobuchar’s plan aims to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by expanding the program’s eligibility, enhance clarity from lenders on details of eligibility and forgiveness, increase flexibility for lenders and streamline the verification requirements.
Klobuchar says that to pay for her national service plan that she will pass bipartisan legislation already introduced to the Senate to reduce single-use drug waste, citing studies that highlight the manufacturing of over-sized doses and discarded reimbursement costs for some drug products.
Buttigieg unveils plan to target health care inequities
COLUMBIA, S.C. — With heath care continuing to be one of the key issues in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with a new plan focused on addressing inequality in the system.
The plan, titled, “Health Equity and Justice in America,” comes amid a Buttigieg campaign swing through the south, where the mayor has met with several groups to discuss the issue.
The policy places a heavy emphasis on measures that can be taken to ensure equity in health before someone reaches a hospital or clinic by addressing what Buttigieg calls, “structural barriers.”
“Most of our health outcomes are determined by what happens outside a clinic or hospital: by where we can live, what we can eat, and what jobs we have access to,” the plan states.
Buttigieg plans to adopt a “Health in All Policies” approach to policy implementation, establishing Offices of Health Equity and Justice within key federal agencies including Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The candidate aims to empower local public health departments by creating a Public Health Infrastructure Fund that would funnel more resources into communities with the most need. Under his plan the federal government would contribute $500 million increasing annually until the $4 billion a year gap between current spending and existing needs is met. Individual states would be required to match these funds on a sliding scale based on the median income of a given state.
A Buttigieg administration would require federally funded health programs to collect and monitor data related to healthcare quality, cost, and outcomes for specific demographics based on, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The administration would then use that data to award financial incentives based on measured equitable outcomes.
Within his first 100 days Buttigieg says he will launch a National Health Equity Strategy Task Force. In addition, he promises to invest in finding cures to diseases that disproportionately impact minority communities, in part by mandating that federally-funded research trials include diverse samples of people and communities.
This latest healthcare addendum comes months after the release of over-arching Buttigieg’s Medicare For All Who Want It policy which was announced in September.
Leading progressive groups endorse Rep. Henry Cuellar primary challenger
WASHINGTON — A coalition of prominent progressive groups has endorsed Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration lawyer who is trying to unseat Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar in a Democratic primary, NBC News has learned.
The Democratic primary fight, in a sprawling congressional district that extends south from the San Antonio suburbs down to Loredo on the border with Mexico, is quickly becoming one of the hottest flash-points in the party’s ideological civil war.
Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley have endorsed Cisneros, the latter two veterans of their own high-profile primary victories against entrenched incumbent Democrats last year.
The latest show of support for Cisneros, who once briefly worked for Cuellar, shows major institutional players on the left are increasingly willing to buck tradition by going against a sitting lawmaker.
The new coalition of groups supporting Cisneros Tuesday includes some of the leading reproductive rights groups in the country -- Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- along with the political arm of the deep-pocked environmental group League of Conservation Voters, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, and the grassroots organizing group MoveOn.
“I'm proud to stand alongside so many incredible organizations leading the fight against the Trump administration’s hatred and bigotry,” Cisneros said in a statement shared with NBC News.
Cuellar, who first won his seat in 2004 after emerging from a nasty Democratic primary, has come under fire from the left for numerous votes and positions that critics say do not represent his heavily-Democratic, majority-Hispanic district.
Cuellar, for instance, is one of just a tiny handful of House Democrats who has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. He also voted with Republicans against so-called sanctuary cities, local jurisdictions that refuse to work with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
And he's also taken votes against expanding abortion rights, including in support of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal spending on abortion services.
“As anti-choice politicians continue to wage an all-out assault on the right to access abortion, it’s crucial that Democrats stand united in their commitment to reproductive freedom,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Henry Cuellar’s record speaks for itself-- from his support for the discriminatory Hyde Amendment to extreme bans on abortion, he has made it clear just how dangerously out-of-touch he is.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, added in a statement that Cisneros is “committed to protecting people’s rights and has pledged to defend her constituents against attacks on those rights and freedoms.”
But Cuellar spokesperson Colin Strother told NBC News his boss is focused on his local constituents, not a national advocacy group and the opinion of “people from outside the district, who don’t know the district, and who can’t vote in the district.”
“It’s unfortunate that so many of these so-called progressive groups are focused on some kind of a purification ritual that does nothing other than feed their ego and their donor base,” Strother added.
Cueller’s district has little risk of falling into Republican hands in 2020. It voted for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in 2016. But some Democrats have warned that primary battles, even in safe districts, will distract the party from preserving its hard-won House majority next year.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of House Democrats, is anticipating more primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers in safe blue districts after Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory last year, and has vowed to stop working with any vendors who work with insurgent candidates.
For Democratic presidential hopefuls, the early bids have caught the worms
WASHINGTON — If there’s been one lesson to the 2020 Democratic presidential race, it’s been this one: The early birds have gotten the worm – at least when it comes to the attention needed to garner support in the polls and qualify for the debates.
Bullock qualified to participate in just one debate, while Sestak never got to make a single debate stage.
Indeed, excluding the newest entrants (Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick), of the 12 Democratic candidates who jumped into the 2020 race AFTER February, only three still remain – former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and billionaire Tom Steyer.
By contrast, of the 12 candidates who got into the race BEFORE March 1, all but one is still in the contest.
That one exception? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Take a look at the list of Democratic candidates this cycle, ordered by the latest to enter, to see how few of the latest entries are still in the race:
- Michael Bloomberg (who announced on Nov. 24)
- Deval Patrick (who announced on Nov. 14)
- Tom Steyer (who announced on July 9)
- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (who announced on June 23) EXITED on Dec. 1
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (who announced on May 16) EXITED on Sept. 20
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (who announced on May 14) EXITED on Dec. 2
- Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo (who announced on May 2)
- Former VP Joe Biden (who announced on April 25)
- Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass (who announced on April 22) EXITED on Aug. 23
- Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (who announced on April 8) EXITED on July 8
- Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio (who announced on April 4) EXITED on Oct. 24
- Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke (who announced on March 14) EXITED Nov. 1
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (who announced on March 4) EXITED on Aug. 15
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (who announced March 1) EXITED on Aug. 21
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (who announced on Feb. 19)
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who announced on Feb. 10)
- Marianne Williamson (who filed her candidacy on Feb. 5)
- Sen. Cory Booker (who announced on Feb. 1)
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan 23, formally announced on April 14)
- Sen. Kamala Harris (who announced on Jan. 21)
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who formed an exploratory committee on Jan. 15, formally announced on March 17) EXITED on Aug. 28
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who announced her decision to run on Jan. 11)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 31, formally announced on Feb. 9)
- Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro (who formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 12, formally on Jan. 12)
- Andrew Yang (who filed his candidacy on Nov. 6, 2017)
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (who announced his presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!)
Gavin Newsom endorses Christy Smith for former Rep. Katie Hill's seat
WASHINGTON — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday endorsed California Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special House election to fill former Rep. Katie Hill’s seat.
"We need Christy Smith in Congress. She's proven herself as an effective leader for the people she represents," Newsom said in a statement first made available to NBC News.
"From addressing our increasing wildfire threat to investing more in our public schools, creating middle class jobs, making healthcare more accessible and affordable to combating our climate crisis and enhancing emergency response — Christy has shown that she knows how to bring people together to solve problems and get things done."
Hill, who defeated a GOP incumbent to win the 25th District seat in 2018, resigned in October amid an ethics investigation into allegations she had an affair with a staffer.
California uses a jungle-primary system, which pits all candidates against each other in a primary regardless of party. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two move on to a runoff.
The special election primary, which will be held on March 3, is already crowded on both sides of the aisle.
Cenk Uygur, the progressive commentator and co-founder of The Young Turks announced his bid for the seat in late November.
The Young Turks, a widely-viewed progressive media site, regularly spars with establishment Democrats and the party structure. Smith meanwhile has earned a steady stream of establishment Democratic endorsements like 12 members of California’s congressional delegation, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the California League of Conservation Voters.
While Uygur could take up the progressive lane in the race, he's come under fire for alleged misogynistic and homophobic comments he made in the early 2000s. Uygur has since apologized for the comments.
On the Republican side, former Rep. Stephen Knight, who held the seat until Hill flipped the district, is vying to win it back, and former aide to President Trump's 2016 campaign George Papadopoulos also announced. President Trump has not commented on Papadopoulos' run, and he hasn't endorsed Knight. However it's Marine Mike Garcia who has earned theendorsement former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
Smith’s Assembly district encompasses 58 percent of the 25th District, and Smith won her election by 5,000 votes in 2018, flipping it from GOP control for the first time since 1978 (Hill became the first Democrat to win the congressional seat since 1990).
The Cook Political Report rated this seat as a “lean Democratic” in the 2020 general election race, even though the seat is currently vacant.
If no candidate hits the 50 percent mark in the March 3 primary, the top two will advance to a general election on May 12.
The special election decides who serves out the rest of Hill's unexpired term, through next year. Voters will also choose a candidate to succeed Hill in 2021 in a separate election on the same ballot
Klobuchar on Bloomberg: It cannot be all about money
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., took a swipe at billionaire Democratic presidential hopefuls Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that their self-funded candidacies send a bad message about money in politics.
“I'm never going to be able to compete with two billionaires. That is true. I'm not going to be able to buy this $30 million ad buy,” she said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. “It cannot be all about money or rich people would be running and winning in every Senate race in the country. That's not what happens.”
Steyer has been in the race since July, and spent more than $46 million of his own money on his bid through the end of September. And while Bloomberg jumped in last week, he’s already booked $52 million in television advertising time alone.
While Klobuchar praised Bloomberg’s record — he’s also spent his millions championing Democratic priorities like preventing gun violence and climate change — she criticized his decision to jump into the race and the calculus that the party might need a savior as Democrats jockey for position in their primary. .
“It is more about money in politics for me. I have admiration for the work that he's done, but I don't buy this argument that you get in because you say, ‘Oh, everyone else sucks,’” she said.
“I think we have strong candidates. I don't think that any of the polling or the numbers show that people are dissatisfied with all their candidates. They're just trying to pick the right one.”
Happy Thanksgiving: Here's who's led past presidential primaries by Thanksgiving weekend
WASHINGTON — As the presidential election calendar turns to Thanksgiving (and with almost two months to go before Iowa's February caucus), former Vice President Joe Biden holds the lead in national polls right now.
There's still a lot of time left for candidates to flip the script, and national polls don't perfectly capture the dynamics in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the first states to hold presidential nominating contests. But the national polls do provide a snapshot at how the candidates are resonating with the broader Democratic primary electorate.
Biden's RealClearPolitics average has him at 29.3 percent nationally as of Nov. 26, a nine-point lead over Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 19.5 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is close behind with 18 percent, but then there's a significant drop-off with the rest of the field.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 8 percent, followed by California Sen. Kamala Harris' 4 percent, businessman Andrew Yang's 3 percent and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's 2 percent (former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's average is 2 percent, but he's hardly been included in polls since he launched his surprise bid late last week).
Here are what the national RealClearPolitics averages looked like in some previous cycles at this point in the calendar, Nov. 26 of the year before Election Day.
The writing was already on the wall in the GOP primary by Nov. 26, 2015, with then-candidate Donald Trump and his 27.5 percent a significant lead over Dr. Ben Carson's 19.8 percent.
At that point, Trump's hold on the GOP primary electorate was only getting stronger, while Carson quickly declined toward the middle of the pack.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were locked in a tight race for third behind them, with 12.5 percent and 11.3 percent respectively.
Then came former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his 5.5 percent, followed by businesswoman Carly Fiorina's 3.5 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 3.3 percent.
The 2016 Democratic primary was a two-person race almost the whole way through, and it particularly was by the end of November 2015.
By Nov. 26, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton averaged 55.8 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, according to the RCP average. While Sanders' momentum was building at that point, he still trailed significantly with 30.2 percent.
With the Iowa caucus just a month out (the caucus used to be in January), eventual nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was locked in a tight battle with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Romney averaged 23.8 percent of the GOP national vote, compared to Romney's 21.3 percent.
Herman Cain followed at third place with 15.5 percent, but his candidacy was on the down-swing too and he ultimately dropped out less than two weeks later.
Two Texans, former Rep. Ron Paul and then-Gov. Rick Perry, were tied at 8 percent.
And former Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann was averaging 4.8 percent.
The man at the top of the polls by Nov. 26, 2008 is a familiar face for those following the 2020 elections—former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani averaged 28 percent about a month before the January Iowa caucus, almost double that of the second-place candidate Fred Thompson, the former actor and Tennessee senator.
Romney, making his first presidential bid, followed at 12.7 percent. And eventual nominee, the late former Arizona Sen. John McCain, sat at just 12.2 percent.
Just like in 2016, Clinton had a commanding lead over the field by the Thanksgiving season, as it looked like she would cruise to the nomination. Her 42.7 percent average was significantly ahead of her next 2020 rival, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his 23 percent.
Harris announces endorsements from 100 Iowa teachers
WAUKEE, Iowa — As Kamala Harris prepares to spend the Thanksgiving holiday on the campaign trail in Iowa, her campaign is unveiling 100 new endorsements from teachers around the Hawkeye state to coincide with the launch of “Iowa Teachers for Kamala” on Wednesday.
“I am honored to have the support of teachers from across Iowa and grateful every day for the work they do to help raise our children,” Harris said in a release. “Educators here in Iowa and across the country have made me a better candidate and I’m grateful to have them on my team.”
Harris’ first campaign policy rollout focused on increasing teacher pay by an average of $13,500, and she often pledges on the trail that one of her first actions as president would be to “say thank you and goodbye to Betsy DeVos” — often met with large applause — adding that teachers “don’t want a gun, they want a raise!”
In a recent push to invest both her time and resources in Iowa, Harris has restructured her stump speech to include various points of “justice” that are on the ballot. “Educational justice” is one on that list and she focuses on teacher pay disparities, noting the fact that many teachers end up working multiple jobs. She also talks about her pledge to take executive action to implement an assault weapons ban within her first 100 days as president as part of her fight for increased school safety.
The educators endorsing Harris teach a wide variety of subjects and grades across the state. The California senator has spent a significant amount of time in Iowa in recent months in an effort to revamp a floundering campaign, but still only registered at 3% in the most recent Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa poll.
Buttigieg reacts to critical article panning his 2011 comments on minority kids and education
DENISON, IA — After his first event Tuesday, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg distanced himself from his 2011 comments about the lack of educational role models in "lower-income, minority neighborhoods," comments highlighted in a recent, scathing article in "The Root."
The article blasted Buttigieg over his words that surfaced on Twitter last week. The post on "The Root" subsequently prompted a profane hashtag about the mayor that corresponded with the headline of the piece.
In the clip from a 2011 South Bend forum, Buttigieg talks about kids from “lower-income, minority neighborhoods” who haven’t seen education work and who don’t have “someone they know personally who testifies to the value of education.”
"Kids need to see evidence that education is going to work for them," Buttigieg said at the time.
"A lot of kids, especially in the lower-income, minority neighborhoods who literally just haven’t seen it work. There isn’t somebody they know personally who testifies to the value of education."
Michael Harriot, the author of the story in "The Root," criticized Buttigieg's for those comments, pointing to issues like the funding disparities that exist between predominately white schools and majority-minority schools, the pay gap for minority workers, and inequality of access to things like technology and advanced classes.
Responding to the article on Tuesday, Buttigieg, said that “some of the characterization of me personally is unfair,” but that what he said in the clip “does not reflect the totality of my understanding then, and certainly now, about the obstacles that students of color face in our system today.”
He added that he sees how his remarks could be viewed as “validating a narrative that sometimes blames the victim for the consequences of systemic racism,” and largely agrees with the author’s perspective.
Buttigieg said he spoke to Harriot this morning about the concerns raised in the article. The mayor acknowledged “the advantages and privileges that I have had, not through any great wealth but certainly through education, through the advantages that come with being white and being male,” which is part of why he wants to make a difference by running for president.
Buttigieg has struggled to gain traction at the polls with black voters, who are overwhelmingly supporting former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign.
His fellow 2020 Democratic hopeful, California Sen. Kamala Harris, criticized him last week for briefly using a stock photo of a person from Kenya in the release of his plan to help black Americans.
When Buttigieg was confronted with that criticism on last week's debate stage, he said: "I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don't yet know me."
"As mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low income, for eight years, I have lived and breathed the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity that has built-up over centuries but been compounded by policies and decisions from within living memory," he went on.
"While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here."
With Bloomberg blanketing airwaves, here's what the ad war looks like in early states
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is blanketing the airwaves with his historic $30 million-plus television buy, looking to bring his candidacy to voters across the country.
While Bloomberg is currently planning to skip the early states that are historically the path to the nomination, his 2020 Democratic primary rivals are keeping their eyes on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which hold the first nominating contests on the calendar.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, here is the ad-spending race (TV, radio) in those early nominating states from candidates who have spent at least $10,000 as of Nov. 26, according to Advertising Analytics.
Tom Steyer: $7.8 million
Pete Buttigieg: $2.5 million
Bernie Sanders: $2.4 million
Michael Bennet: $1.1 million
Joe Biden: $840,000
Amy Klobuchar: $650,000
Kamala Harris: $560,000
John Delaney: $492,000
Tulsi Gabbard: $252,000
Elizabeth Warren: $94,000
Julián Castro: $32,000
Steve Bullock: $18,000
Steyer: $8.1 million
John Delaney: $130,000
Joe Sestak: $108,000
Steyer: $5.7 million
Steyer: $7.2 million
—Ben Kamisar contributed
Booker plans six-figure ad buy, early state sprint to make debate stage
MANCHESTER, NH – New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign is in an all-out sprint to qualify for the December debate, per a memo from his campaign manager, Addissu Demissie.
With the upcoming Dec. 12 deadline to qualify for the next Democratic debate looming, the campaign announced a six-figure ad buy featuring Booker’s first radio and digital ads, coupled with reorienting its early state strategy “to become a targeted voter persuasion effort aimed at attaining the debate polling threshold.”
Booker's campaign says it has raised $1 million since last week's MSNBC-Washington Post debate, which helped the campaign eclipse the 200,000 unique donor threshold to put Booker on the road toward qualifying for the next debate.
To qualify for the December debate in California, which will be posted by PBS Newshour and Politico, candidates need to hit that unique donor threshold as well as a polling threshold — either hitting 4 percent in four national or state polls (from different pollsters) or 6 percent in two polls of the early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
While Booker has the fundraising, he's so far failed to hit 4 percent in any qualifying poll.
In the memo, Demissie outlined a strategic shift from courting small-dollar donors to reaching the DNC-approved poll numbers needed, citing four percent in four polls as the “likeliest path.”
“While we don’t have Michael Bloomberg or even Tom Steyer money, we are pouring what we have into paid persuasion thanks to the surge that came in after the debate and no longer having to spend precious resources on new donor acquisition aimed at hitting the 200,000 threshold,” he wrote, waiving at the billionaire Democrats who are spending their personal wealth on their campaigns.
“Cory 2020 isn’t leaving poll qualification up to margins or error or fate,” Demissie added. “We know the most important thing we can do for Cory Booker right now is to ensure that every dollar spent, every volunteer shift booked, every waking moment our campaign staff spends in the next two weeks is geared toward persuading voters that Cory should be their first choice in this contest.”
As for early state resources on the ground, the campaign plans to use “both traditional methods and new organizing tools” in a poll-focused, targeted voter persuasion effort. And Demissie wrote that the campaign will reorient its on-the-ground organizers in early states to "become a targeted voter persuasion effort aimed at attaining the debate polling threshold."
Demissie noted the campaign still needs to raise more money to place its first TV ad buys, which would be in South Carolina and Iowa, where airwaves are crowded and Steyer alone has spent more than $7 million.
Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, Booker talked to reporters about the need to keep pushing ahead.
“The high percentage of people that are signing commitments to support us, volunteering for our campaign, we need to keep the momentum – fundraising is a big issue for us,” he said. “We've seen billionaires just go on our TVs and bump up their polling numbers. I don't have that kind of personal resources, I'm depending on the people.”
Democratic candidates accuse Bloomberg of trying to buy nomination
ANKENY, Iowa — As Michael Bloomberg hit the trail on the first day of his Democratic primary campaign, his fellow primary contenders didn't shy away from taking hits at the billionaire's massive ad buys.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who rarely comments on other candidates, starting off her remarks at a community event here Monday afternoon by addressing Bloomberg's expensive foray.
"Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020: he doesn't need people, he only needs bags and bags of money. I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that's what we need to prove in this election," Warren said.
"If you get out and knock on a thousand doors, he'll just spend another $37 million dollars to flood the airwaves and that's how he plans to buy a nomination in the Democratic Party,” Warren added.
Warren, who often critiques billionaires' opposition to her wealth tax when addressing voters, leaned into that sentiment Monday, arguing that her wealth tax is a recognition that the wealthy built their fortunes "at least in part using workers all of us helped pay to educate."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also criticized Bloomberg during an event in Salem, New Hampshire, accusing the former New York City mayor of using his billions to "buy the United States government."
"I understand the power of the 1 percent. I mean you're seeing that right now literally with Mayor Bloomberg who has decided to use part of his $55 billion not to buy a yacht, not to buy another home, not to buy a fancy car, but to buy the United States government," Sanders said.
Tom Steyer, a fellow billionaire and Democratic candidate, told NBC News Monday that Bloomberg shouldn't be in the race if he won't commit to a wealth tax, as he has.
"Inequality is such a critical and dangerous part of our society now. So for somebody like him or like me, who's been particularly lucky in America and has, you know, generated a lot of wealth, I think it's particularly important to address specifically the inequality of income and wealth," Steyer said.
At his event in Norfolk, Virginia, Monday, Bloomberg responded the charges he's buying his way into the race.
“For years I've been using my resources for the things that matter to me. I was lucky enough to build a successful company, it has been very successful and I've used all of it to give back to help America… So I'm now in the race, I'm fully committed to defeating Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg is spending $31 million to run television ads this week in the largest television buy in campaign history, according to the trackers at Advertising Analytics.
In its two, 60-second biographic spots, which are already airing, Bloomberg's campaign touts his record on consensus Democratic issues like preventing climate change, pushing for gun violence reform, creating jobs and supporting affordable housing.
—Ali Vitali, Ryan Beals, Gary Grumbach, Priscilla Thompson and Maura Barrett contributed
'An absolute disaster': Sanders blasts MLB over proposed minor league cuts
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday denounced Major League Baseball's plan to shutter more than 40 minor league teams as an "absolute disaster" and suggested Congress and the Trump administration "seriously rethink and reconsider" the league's anti-trust exemption.
"I am writing to urge you and the owners of Major League Baseball franchises not to eliminate any of the 42 Minor League Baseball clubs that have been put on the chopping block. Shutting down 25 percent of Minor League Baseball teams, as you have proposed, would be an absolute disaster for baseball fans, workers and communities throughout the country," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, wrote in a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "Not only would your extreme proposal destroy thousands of jobs and devastate local economies, it would be terrible for baseball."
"Over 41 million fans went to see a Minor League Baseball game last year — over a million more than the previous year," Sanders added. "Depriving American families in small and mid-sized towns the only opportunity they have to see a live baseball game with future big league players at a reasonable price is both unwise and unnecessary."
Earlier this month, The New York Times detailed 42 minor league teams with which that MLB could soon sever ties, mostly at the lower levels of the minor league system. The league has said that the proposal is part of a broader plan to improve conditions in their affiliated minor leagues, including raising player pay, improving transportation and cutting down on a demanding travel schedule. However, the plan would also drastically cut the number of minor league players MLB has to pay.
MLB did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.
Last week, more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter to Manfred calling on MLB to reconsider the plan, which they said "would undermine the health of the minor league system that undergirds talent development and encourages fan loyalty."
"If this is the type of attitude that Major League Baseball and its owners have then I think it’s time for Congress and the executive branch to seriously rethink and reconsider all of the benefits it has bestowed to the league including, but not limited to, its anti-trust exemption," Sanders wrote Monday.
Baseball has long played a role in the Vermont senator's politics. Sanders told Yahoo News earlier this year that the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958 taught him "what the power of money is about."
Bloomberg ads blanket the airwaves in record-breaking buy
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's stunning advertising buy has begun, with spots promoting his new Democratic presidential bid popping up on the airwaves Monday.
Bloomberg is spending $31 million this week in the largest weekly ad buy ever, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. The buy eclipses even one from then-President Barack Obama, who spent $24.9 million in a single week during his 2012 re-election.
The ads praise Bloomberg's terms as New York City mayor, pointing to his affordable housing and job creation records. They also mention Bloomberg's push to create a group combating gun violence, as well as how he's "stood up to the coal lobby and this administration to protect this planet from climate change."
One of the spots closes with an early attempt to define the billionaire's last-minute candidacy. The ad pitches Bloomberg as the Democrat who can beat the current occupant of the Oval Office, touting consensus issues that are popular among Democrats but more pragmatic than some of the steps being offered by more progressive candidates.
"Now he's taking on [Trump] to rebuild a country and restore faith in the dream that defines us, where the wealthy will pay more in taxes and the middle class get their fair share. Everyone without health insurance can get it, and everyone who likes theirs keep it," the ad's narrator says.
Bennet hears about health care affordability from family in crisis
MANCHESTER, N.H. — What was originally intended to be a morning of knocking on doors on behalf of a presidential candidate turned into a surprising and powerful encounter about the costs of health care.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., led a canvassing kickoff here Sunday morning for volunteers who were knocking on doors on his behalf. Following a training session and brief remarks that Bennet gave to the group, NBC News was invited to follow Bennet along.
In his second house visit of the day, Bennet and his wife, Susan, met Julie and Shane Rondeau who shared the details of their difficult health issues and talked about how their situation is impacting their family.
Shane, 36, is confined to a wheelchair due to his battle with a brain stem tumor and Julie, 35, revealed that she had been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis — both health crises coming within six months of one another.
The couple have two young children — a son Sebastian, who was playing video games inside, age 6, and a daughter, 12, who was not home at the time. Bennet and Susan joined Julie and Shane in their living room, along with their dog, a brown lab puppy named Chewbacca.
“A lot has changed,” Julie said about the aftermath of their health struggles.
Shane told Bennet that he initially thought he was going to be the one taking care of Julie when she was diagnosed. Then he got sick himself. A week before Shane's surgery to remove his brain tumor, the tumor hemorrhaged, which greatly complicated his condition. Julie also shared that her daughter has been struggling with depression in light of all of the family's medical issues, even being hospitalized for it recently.
Julie told the Democratic presidential candidate that health care is their key issue for the election. She commented that she’s had good experiences using her private insurance plan through her work as an IT engineer, noting that it has helped with making their home more handicap accessible and paying for some of Shane’s outpatient rehabilitations.
Julie also shared that they are now relying on social security for some of Shane’s medical costs, and that they cannot afford to get a service dog to help Shane when she's working so they are enrolling their dog, Chewbacca, to learn.
Bennet listened to Julie explain that the couple does not qualify for Medicaid since they are technically considered upper-middle class and that she is weighing options of draining her retirement account to create to be able to off-set some of the health care costs.
Bennet responded by saying that when he worked to help pass the Affordable Care Act, he felt there needed to be a public option. He said that if he were elected, he would push for that expansion as well.
“It just makes sense to do that and create it as an alternative,” Bennet said to the couple.
Bennet and his wife spent roughly a half hour visiting with the couple. He told the couple that he’s heard a lot of stories in the 15 years he’s worked in public life as a school superintendent and in the Senate but “you guys are bearing something here that nobody else I’ve ever met has had to.” He added, what the couple is “both facing in terms of medical conditions, with your age, with your kids, it’s a lot for anybody.”
Kamala Harris tells Iowa voters she's 'not a socialist'
WASHINGTON, IA – Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., continued to try and stake out a middle ground for herself in Iowa on Saturday. While speaking with potential caucus-goers, Harris told voters she's "not trying to start a revolution" and she's "not a socialist."
Harris has spent a substantial amount of time in Iowa since October when she laid off dozens of staffers, shifted field staff from other early primary states to the Hawkeye state. Her campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said Harris is going "all in on Iowa," but in the most recent Iowa poll, Harris is polling at 2 percent.
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack endorses Joe Biden
WASHINGTON – Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, and his wife Christie Vilsack endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in his presidential run on Saturday.
Vilsack announced the endorsement in a USA TODAY op-ed, writing, "While some may argue that Joe Biden’s lifetime of public service is a draw-back, I see it as a strength. I see a well-defined candidate, who has withstood the test of time," Vilsack wrote. "I believe a majority of Americans will find that Joe Biden is the person best prepared and best positioned to heal the divisions within our country and to end the 'disorder' of the last 3 years."
Vilsack's endorsement is Biden's highest-profile Iowa endorsement yet, and comes a week before Biden embarks on an eight-day bus tour of Iowa.
Biden has slipped in recent Iowa polls as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also climbed in the Iowa polls. The newest Iowa poll, from Iowa State University, found Biden in fourth place with 12 percent support – Buttigieg holds a 14-point lead over the former vice president with 26 percent.
After Biden first announced his presidential campaign in April, he traveled to Iowa and told the crowd, " No one is going to work harder to get the support and trust of the Iowa folks than I am this campaign," and, "Ninety-nine counties, here I come!" But Biden has struggled to keep that strong presence.
Back in September, Biden aides said it wasn't necessary for Biden to win Iowa, but that the first in the nation caucus would be "critical."
After serving two terms as governor of Iowa, Vilsack worked in the Obama administration with Biden as the secretary of agriculture. In his endorsement, Vilsack touches on the central point of Biden's campaign: electability.
"The most obvious point to make in selecting a nominee is electability. No leader can change the direction of a country or improve people’s lives if he or she can’t win the election. Given the highest possible stakes in this election, electability has an enhanced role in deciding who the nominee should be," Vilsack said.
Vilsack went on to commend others running for president for writing "extensive, comprehensive and thoughtful plans" in rural areas.
Michael Bloomberg makes multi-million ad buy in major March primary markets
WASHINGTON — While former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn't formally announced a run for president, his emerging/inevitable/actual presidential campaign has bought advertising time in dozens of TV markets at a cost of $8.5 million and counting, according to ad-tracking data from Advertising Analytics.
The top markets in his ad buys all have later primary dates, so if Bloomberg formally announces a run, his focus may be on states that current 2020 candidates aren't spending a ton of time in as of now.
The ads from his new buy are set to start airing on Nov. 25. The biggest buys are in the following markets:
- Los Angeles (California—– March 3 primary): $1.2 million
- Chicago (Illinois – March 17 primary): $863,000
- Houston (Texas– March 3 primary): $630,000
- Dallas-Ft Worth (Texas– March 3 primary): $611,000
- New York (April 28 primary): $550,000
Amy Klobuchar adds staff in Nevada, other early primary states
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a well-received debate performance on Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is staffing up. The campaign announced two new hires in Nevada — both of whom came from former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's, D-Texas, presidential campaign.
O'Rourke ended his campaign last month.
The campaign named Marina Negroponte as the new Nevada state director. Negroponte held the same position for O'Rourke's campaign. Cameron “C.H.” Miller joined as Nevada political director — also a position Miller held for O'Rourke.
“Our number one focus is building a strong grassroots operation to win — and win big — in 2020,” Justin Buoen, Klobuchar's campaign manager, said in a statement. “As our momentum continues to grow following Amy’s stand-out debate performance this week, the Amy for America campaign is excited to announce two new, key hires in the state of Nevada. Marina and C.H. bring extensive experience to the team and will help us share Amy’s unifying message and optimistic agenda with caucus-goers across Nevada.”
Klobuchar’s campaign told NBC News that these are the first of new hires they will be making as they ramp up in early primary states. The campaign is doubling offices in Iowa and adding staff in New Hampshire. More hires are expected in South Carolina in the coming weeks.
Klobuchar has been rising in Iowa polls, but has consistently polled low in Nevada. The most recent Nevada poll, conducted by Fox News, has Klobuchar at 2 percent, and she peaked in a Nevada Independent poll earlier this month at 3 percent in the state.
While only the Democratic National Committee can verify which candidates officially qualify for each debate, Klobuchar has passed the donation and polling thresholds to appear at the December debate.
Kamala Harris calls Pete Buttigieg "naive" for comparing black, LGBTQ struggles
ATLANTA — At a breakfast Thursday morning for black women activists in Atlanta, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg "naive" for comparing the struggles of black Americans to those in the LGBTQ community during the Democratic primary debate Wednesday night.
“What he did on the stage, it's just not productive,” Harris said to the room of about 200 mostly black women, after explaining that “those of us who've been involved in civil rights for a long time, we know that it is important that we not compare struggles.”
NBC News asked Buttigieg to respond to Harris calling him “naïve” for drawing parallels between being black and being gay. Buttigieg replied that he was not trying to parallel the two experiences.
“There’s no equating those two experiences. And some people, by the way, live at the intersection of those two experiences," Buttigieg said. "Last night I shared some of my sources for motivation, includes my personal experience, my governing experience and my personal faith.”
The back-and-forth began because of a debate question directed at Harris regarding a stock photo of a Kenyan woman the Buttigieg campaign used while promoting the mayor's Douglass Plan — Buttigieg has since apologized for its use. The plan is aimed at empowering black communities.
During the debate, Harris answered the question by saying some in the Democratic Party have taken the black community’s vote for granted which Buttigieg agreed with. The mayor went on to say that while he has not experienced racial discrimination, he knows the feeling of being an outsider because of his sexuality.
“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country,” Buttigieg said.
In an interview Wednesday night, Harris called comparing the struggles of marginalized groups “misguided."
“So we’re going to now say that my pain is worse than your pain? We had 400 years of slavery in this country. We had years of lynching," Harris said. "We also have our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who still, under the law, do not have full equality. These are all injustices, but to start comparing one group’s pain to the other is misguided."
Joe Biden launches first bus tour in Iowa
ATLANTA — Former Vice President Joe Biden will embark on an eight day “No Malarkey” Iowa bus tour later this month, where he will be traveling to meet caucus-goers in 18 counties throughout the key early state.
When he kicks off the bus tour, Biden will have already visited the Hawkeye State 15 times, including an upcoming trip this week. The tour's "No Malarkey" title is a reference to a catchphrase Biden has become known for using when calling out inconsistencies. The campaign is touting that he will be stressing “no malarkey” while he crisscrosses the state in the hope that more Iowans see his “honest, upfront and authentic” core.
Biden famously used the term during the 2012 vice presidential debate when then-Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., discussed cuts to defense spending.
“When it comes to protecting health care, rebuilding the middle class, and defeating Donald Trump, Joe will continue laying out a clear vision about how he will deliver results for working families,” campaign manager Greg Schultz said.
The bus tour comes roughly two months before Iowans go before the first-in-the-nation caucuses and as polls have shown him losing substantial ground in the state. The campaign has argued that Biden does not need to win Iowa to become the nominee, but the attempt to barnstorm the state shows their ramped up emphasis to win over caucus-goers before the primary contest heads to friendlier Biden territory like South Carolina.
Five other presidential candidates have held bus tours in the state, but Biden’s eight day stretch is slated to be the longest on-the-bus presence for a candidate. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s and Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif., bus tours won them a flurry of press stories, but only Buttigieg has seen a significant rise in the polls since he drove through the state.
Prior to losing ground in the state, Biden discussed the importance of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus status, declining to support ideas from Democrats who believe they can clinch the nomination without competing in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“You are the key to the kingdom. You got to go through this gate, I really mean this,” Biden told Iowans in Prole, Iowa back in August. “I'm going to work as hard as I can to try and convince you. I'm among many qualified people, I'm the best qualified people, person for this job.”
The cross-state tour of the Hawkeye State will begin on Nov. 30 in Council Bluffs and end on Dec. 7 in Cedar Rapids.
Pete Buttigieg releases tax returns from time at McKinsey
ATLANTA — Hours ahead of Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released more tax returns from his time working at McKinsey & Company and called on his opponents to disclose income from their time working in the private sector.
“Every candidate in this race should be transparent with voters by disclosing their income in the private and public sectors,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
Buttigieg worked at the multi-national management consulting firm for three years from 2007 – 2010. This release comes as he has faced increased scrutiny of his time at the company.
"As someone who worked in the private sector, I understand it is important to be as transparent as possible about how much money I made during that time,” Buttigieg said in a statement.
In 2007, Buttigieg earned an adjusted gross income of $80,397 and paid $13,954 in taxes, for an effective tax rate of 17.4 percent.
The following year, Buttigieg earned $122,680 as a single person. In all, the candidate paid $25,776 in taxes and received a refund of $1,273 from the federal government.
In April, Buttigieg released 10-year’s worth of tax returns showing a range of taxable income over the last decade from a negative $3,920 in 2011, when he first ran for mayor of South Bend, to a high of $136,129 in 2009, which was his last full year at McKinsey & Co.
Stacey Abrams talks voter suppression ahead of Democratic debate
ATLANTA — The 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee had a simple message when she spoke at a round table on voter suppression here on Tuesday: "My name is Stacey Abrams and I am not the governor of Georgia."
Many in the crowd replied to Abrams saying, “Yes, you are!”
“No, no, no sometimes it seems necessary to tell people that I know this," Abrams replied.
The former lawmaker spoke about her 2018 race for governor and told the crowd that despite her loss to now-Gov. Brian Kemp, “we won” by transforming the electorate in the state. Abrams asserted that the only reason Democrats didn't win the governorship was because of voter suppression.
Abrams has made similar claims before. In April, Abrams told The New York Times Magazine, "I cannot say that everybody who tried to cast a ballot would’ve voted for me, but if you look at the totality of the information, it is sufficient to demonstrate that so many people were disenfranchised and disengaged by the very act of the person who won the election that I feel comfortable now saying, 'I won.'"
Earlier this year Abrams launched “Fair Fight 2020” aimed at ending voter suppression and ensuring fair elections.
Speaking before the group on Tuesday, the former candidate and Georgia lawmaker ticked through barriers to voting access. On voter roll purging, she made a comparison to gun rights — a hot button issues in states like Georgia.
“I don't lose my second amendment rights because I didn't go shooting on Saturday,” she said. “Why should we lose the right to vote because we choose not to vote?”
She emphasized the importance of accessibility to the ballot for all types of voters. “Our accessibility has to be more than lip service and it has to be more than a website,” she said. “It has to be real.”
Abrams closed her remarks encouraging everyone to work and fight together in order to win.
Following her remarks, a panel of local leaders and activists in the fight for access to the ballot addressed the crowd sharing personal stories of voter suppression and how best to combat it. The event was hosted by the Democratic National Committee.
They discussed voting by mail, people with disabilities joining election boards and making election day a holiday. While some politicians have argued for election day to be a holiday, some on this panel said it could disproportionately impact people with disabilities because transit runs on less frequent schedules on holidays, and those in hospitality industries would likely still have to work on a holiday.
New Joe Biden ad highlights work on Violence Against Women Act
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign is highlighting his pledge to end violence against women with a new TV ad set to air Iowa.
The one-minute TV and digital ad coincides with the release of Biden’s new plan to end violence against women. It is part of a previous $4 million ad buy in Iowa that will air in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Targeted voters will also see it on YouTube and Hulu throughout the state.
Biden only briefly appears, leaving the message to be delivered by a sexual assault survivor who introduced him at a New London, N.H. town hall event earlier this month.
Biden has had sexual assault survivors introduce him at several of his rallies — as well as women who have suffered homelessness and economic struggles after leaving their abusers — who felt personally touched and taken care of by an “unknown” senator when he passed the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) in 1994.
Speaking in her own words, the survivor stresses how Biden’s persistence to end domestic violence is a genuine pursuit of his, a cause Biden himself has often described on the campaign trail as a “passion of his life.”
“When someone like myself has gone through domestic violence, physically and mentally broken down, and then one day you read in the newspaper that a senator that you don’t even know is fighting for a bill that you don’t even know to help women like myself, to keep us safe and to provide transitional housing because I was homeless due to domestic violence,” she says in the ad.
“Joe Biden became my hero that day because he didn’t even know me. He was fighting for me and my son Michael even though he didn’t know it. He means so much because of that.”
Biden often says that his fight for women stems from his inability to accept abuses of power whenever he sees them, especially in the case of a man abusing a woman.
His plan comes as the updated VAWA, legislation he spearheaded as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stalls in the Senate. If the upper chamber does not pass the Act during this legislative term, he has promised to enact VAWA in his first 100 days as president.
Besides implementing an updated version of VAWA, a President Biden would tackle ending the rape kit backlog, create a task force to study online sexual harassment, stalking and threats and change housing and tax laws to make it easier for women to chart their next path after the trauma of surviving abuse. His plan also puts forward proposals to specifically help women of color, older women, transwomen and women with disabilities in an effort to change the culture surrounding sexual assaults.
“This is a cultural problem and we're long way from being able to solve it,” Biden said at a recent VAWA round table in Concord, N.H.. “There's only one way to solve it. Make people look at it, make them look at how ugly it is and keep talking about it, keep talking about it for the sake of my granddaughters.”
Gold Star father Khizr Khan endorses Biden for president
"Vice President Biden has always put the country above himself," Khan said in a statement released by the campaign Monday. "From the days after he was first elected Senator to his time serving alongside President Obama, Vice President Biden has never wavered in his commitment to our country. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has consistently chosen self over country, seeking the aid of totalitarian governments to sway elections and undermine our rule of law to serve his self-interest."
The campaign says that Khan, whose son was killed in the Iraq War, will be making his first surrogate campaign visit on Biden's behalf to New Hampshire sometime in early December, but details and dates are still being finalized.
Khan and his wife Ghazala were recently seen at a Biden fundraiser on November 3, held at former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s house. During Biden’s brief remarks, Biden acknowledged that the Khan family knows “what this man is like” given that they were at one point a repeated target of President Donald Trump’s attacks, Marianna as pooler reported from the event.
“I know as well, Mr. Khan, what you’ve gone through. I know just what you suffered and the humiliation,” Biden said at the fundraiser. “I lost a son too and I’ve noticed what he’s trying to do to my living son.” He added that Trump is a man “with very few social redeeming value.”
Deval Patrick wants to be a "bridge builder" in 2020 contest, will accept Super PAC money
WASHINGTON — On the heels of a new Des Moines Register poll showing South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg rocketing to a double-digit lead in Iowa likely Democratic caucus-goers, the newest entry into the Democratic presidential race made his case Sunday morning as a "bridge-builder."
"I have tremendous respect for Mayor Pete," former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press, "as a I do for Senator Warren, for the vice president and the other candidates who are friends of mine, and who I talk with."
"My entry into the race isn't about them, and I'm not trying to climb on top of them in order to do what I want to do, and what I think I can do."
Patrick added that his record of being a "bridge builder" is important in a time when "the nation is deeply divided."
The former governor officially entered the race on Thursday, hours before the deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot. Patrick originally opted out of a 2020 campaign — but clarified Sunday morning that he had almost jumped into the race a year ago but didn't because of his wife's diagnosis with uterine cancer. Patrick's wife is now cancer-free.
Many of Patrick's positions are held by other Democrats currently in the race — he does not support Medicare for All, but rather a public option, like Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Patrick is also not the first governor to enter the race. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is still in the presidential contest, even though he did not qualified for the November debate, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out of the contest in August.
The late entry followed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filing to appear on the Alabama and Arkansas Democratic primary ballots. Bloomberg, if he officially announces an entrance to the race, will not compete in the early primary states, while Patrick will.
Patrick said Sunday morning that unlike some of his other Democratic opponents, he will not discourage financial aid from Super PACs who spend on his behalf. Former Vice President Biden has also indicated he wouldn't discourage the help of a Super PAC. Candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have sworn off the help of Super PACs.
"I'm not crazy about Super PAC money," Patrick said. "I think we need to do some catch-up. So I think we've got to follow and find all sorts of above-board strategies to do that."
Patrick added that he while he wouldn't discourage the help from outside organizations on his behalf, he would want all Super PAC donations to be properly disclosed.
Cory Booker files for N.H. primary ballot as filing period ends
CONCORD, N.H. — The first in the nation presidential primary ballot is officially set, with Friday at 5 p.m. marking the end of New Hampshire’s candidate filing period. In all, 14 major Democratic presidential candidates filed in person, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the state to file the paperwork for President Donald Trump and two Republican primary challengers also showed up to file during a two week period that was not without its surprises.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., became the last notable presidential candidate to file Friday morning at the state house. Notably missing from the New Hampshire ballot: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Democratic hopeful, Mayor of Miramar, Florida Wayne Messam.
“I love that you all are the first in the nation,” Booker said to N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner as filed. Upon handing over the $1,000 check required, Booker told Gardner he was welcome to donate back some of the fee into his campaign.
This cycle's filing period also marked the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire going “first” in the primary cycle. There has long been debate over whether the order of states in the presidential nominating process should change to better reflect the population of the country, something that Gardner has fought hard to prevent over the past two decades.
“There will be another filing period in four years,” Gardner told NBC News. He noted that this filing period has had "a lot of excitement, a lot of good will during the filing period and all kinds of individuals, very different status, and they’re all filing the same way. The famous, and the not famous, and that’s been the tradition of it. And this filing period has been very consistent with that tradition and it’s consistent with you never really know what to expect.”
This year's parade of campaigns featured some notable absences — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who had her state director file on her behalf and just before the start of the period slashed her staff in the state and closed all field offices, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who has shed his entire New Hampshire team and mailed in his paperwork.
And there was a late entry into the race. Mere hours after announcing his candidacy, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came to the state house in person to officially file to be on the ballot. And while others can still jump into the broader race, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the ballot for the first voting state has been finalized with the current field as it stands.
Asked about the latest entrant to the race, Patrick, Booker this morning praised having a competitive Democratic field.
“By your metric I do not take it a personal insult that my friends believe that they are the best person to be president,” Booker said. “It is such a good thing that we have a robust competition at a time that we need to make sure that whoever emerges from this is the best person to beat Donald Trump and lead us out of the ditch that he's dug for us and put us in.”
Some constituencies for candidates were surprising. Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg had the biggest and loudest show of force when he was the first to file while the crowds gathered for Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., didn't match expectations.
More moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., had solid but more modest displays of support but that included showings from establishment endorsers, and those trying to surge in New Hampshire like Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also had passionate crowds.
Booker’s supporters had a show of force notably stronger and louder than other candidates currently polling in the low single digits in the state, and a comparably bigger squad of state endorsers. But Booker, and other lower-tier candidates, only have 88 days left to translate that support into actual votes had.
“The favorite moment is the excitement that is there among the people who are coming in with the candidate and the crowds and just the grassroots democracy because that’s what this is all about,” Gardner said. “It’s always been about the little guy, it’s always been about giving the person without the most fame and fortune a chance.”
New Warren plan splits Medicare for All into two bills, preserves private plans at first
WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released her plan for transitioning the country to a Medicare For All health care system Friday, splitting the effort into two legislative pushes that would happen over her first term in office, but holding off — at first — on ending the role of private insurance companies.
Instead, she would pass legislation to offer new Medicare benefits to everyone first and then follow up with legislation to end existing employer plans by her third year in office, once the new system has a foothold.
The two-stage approach could make it easier to pass legislation and give Warren a hedge against attacks that she would eliminate existing plans, but is a departure from legislation by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would transition to Medicare for All over four years but lock everything into one bill.
“The Affordable Care Act made massive strides in expanding access to health insurance coverage, and we must defend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to rip health coverage away from people,” Warren writes in a Medium post Friday. “But it’s time for the next step.”
The First 100 Days
The first effort — which would be accomplished through a budget reconciliation process that requires only fifty votes in the Senate and isn't subject to filibuster rules — would establish a "true" Medicare For All public option. This would be free for Americans under 18 years old, as well as individuals below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For others, costs would be shared under this plan, but eventually decrease to zero. Warren would also work to bolster the Affordable Care Act and Medicare programs during this early period of her administration, while also reversing actions taken by President Donald Trump's administration that have weakened the ACA.
Others in the 2020 Democratic field have also pushed for a public option, but Warren argues that hers is the most generous because it would be modeled on the Sanders Medicare for All bill and eventually require no premiums or deductibles and cover essential medical needs along with dental, vision, and long-term care.
Warren released a plan to pay for a $20.5T Medicare For All system earlier this month and she says she would use similar elements to finance her plan as they determine its cost, which would at least initially be lower.
"No Later" than year three of a Warren Administration
The second push — occurring “no later” than Warren's third year in office — would move to eliminate the role of private insurance, save for in a select few instances, and would complete the full transition to Medicare For All.
The plan envisions that, at this point, the Medicare For All option would already play such a significant role in the health care system that it would be easier politically and practically to complete the job. Warren also envisions having passed a new ethics bill by this point, that she argues would make it harder for health care industry groups to rally opposition.
The new transition plan also seems designed to rebut criticism from rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg that Warren has no clear path to enacting her plan and would not work to protect the Affordable Care Act in the meantime. “Any candidate who believes more modest reforms will avoid the wrath of industry is not paying attention,” Warren wrote in the Medium post.
Former Vermont Gov. Shumlin endorses Biden in Democratic race
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Shumlin explained why he decided to back Biden and back him at this point in the race.
“This is the most important election in my lifetime and maybe in American history,” Shumlin said. “Our country is being governed by the most frightening president in memory who is dividing us."
"He's also managed to turn our greatest allies in the world against us, and coddled dictators and thugs who lead countries that we should fear," he continued. "There is no one more qualified to put this country and help put this planet back together again than Joe Biden.”
Shumlin, who he served as Governor of Vermont from 2011 to 2017, also served as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) He said as governor he worked closely with the White House and “watched Joe Biden as a key player for President Obama” in dealing with difficult and complex situations, citing meetings he had alongside Biden and foreign leaders.
“What I saw in Joe Biden was exactly what America needs right now,” Shumlin said, “someone who can work with all parties to bring people together and build consensus, and he's brilliant at it.”
In the 2016 cycle, Shumlin endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidency, over his fellow Vermonter, Sen. Bernie Sanders. When asked why he didn’t back Sanders once again in this cycle, Shumlin said his decision to endorse Biden did not come as a criticism of the other Democratic presidential candidates but rather stressing Biden’s capabilities in beating President Trump and hitting the ground running with the presidency.
“Listen, I love Bernie Sanders, and I actually am excited about the entire Democratic field I think we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the candidates running,” Shumlin said. “But what we need right now is someone who can actually pull people together to get really difficult things done."
"My endorsement is not an indictment of any of the other candidates," he said. "It is an affirmation that right now America and the world needs Joe Biden, and if we're going to win Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, at least three of those four, we need Joe Biden.”
When asked if Shumlin, who has notable donor ties through his time as chairman of the DGA is planning to help Biden’s campaign with fundraising, he said, “I'll help in any way that I can, this election is really important. I'm actually willing to help in any way that the Biden campaign asks me to help.”
Shumlin stressed that he feels the Democratic electorate does not have to make a binary choice when it comes to who they will back.
“I urge people who are concerned about where our country is right now to be passionate and pragmatic, and we can do both,” he said.
Joe Biden proposes $1.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul plan
LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden released a new infrastructure plan Thursday, which aims to create jobs to help revitalize the country's crumbling transportation routes by investing trillions of dollars over the next decade.
Biden’s 12-page plan emphasizes how updating America’s infrastructure would benefit the middle class — from shorter commute times thanks to improved roads and transportation lines within cities, to the creation of new modern-day jobs that would be needed to complete all that he proposes.
The plan also includes “green”, or environmentally friendly, proposals for almost every improvement proposed in his plan. The plan lays out ways to build green jobs by prioritizing energy efficient infrastructure that would help lead to his goal of reaching zero net carbon emissions by 2050.
Biden proposes putting $50 billion towards addressing crumbling highways, roads and bridges across the country during his first year in office. After addressing infrastructure in critical need of reparation, Biden — also known as “Amtrak Joe”, for his train commute between Washington D.C. and Delaware as a senator — proposes building multiple high rail systems throughout the U.S., which would eventually connect coast to coast, East to West and North to South. Moreover, he hopes high speed trains will cut commute times from New York City to Washington D.C. by half.
Another $10 billion over a decade would be directed to build more transportation routes in high poverty areas so members of those communities have more access to job opportunities. He’d also create a yearly $1 billion grant for five cities to implement “smart-city technologies” to make cities more green by implementing things like more charging stations for cars and scooters.
The cost of implementing the proposal would total $1.3 trillion over 10 years and would be paid for by taxing the wealthy and corporations “their fair share,” eliminating President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and closing other loopholes that “reward wealth, not work.”
Though the cost of the proposal comes with a hefty price tag, the Biden campaign points out that they will keep a campaign promise that President Trump didn't when it comes to infrastructure. The campaign mocks the president's multiple attempts to hold “Infrastructure Weeks” that have “failed to actually deliver results.”
“Instead, Trump has focused on privatizing construction projects to benefit his wealthy friends, leaving communities across the country suffering and our nation falling behind,” the plan reads.
Deval Patrick files in N.H., addresses Medicare for All and Bain Capital
CONCORD, N.H. — Just a day ahead of the deadline, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick showed up to the statehouse here to file for the New Hampshire primary ballot late Thursday morning. Having announced his presidential campaign just hours prior, Patrick ensured his spot on the first 2020 primary ballot by signing his declaration of candidacy and submitting the $1,000 filing fee at the New Hampshire secretary of state's office.
After filing, Patrick signed the commemorative poster, "With high hopes for everyone everywhere."
After his surprising entrance into the race, Patrick arrived to the ceremonial occasion with his wife Diane and campaign manager Abe Rakov, a former Beto O’Rourke adviser and leader of Let America Vote, a voting rights group with an extensive network in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
“There is a sort of once in a lifetime appetite today to bring big solutions, big enough for the challenges we face — but I think that there has to be more than the big solutions,” Patrick told reporters. “We have to use those solutions to heal us. We have a really, really talented marvelous Democratic field, many of them are my friends, I talk to some of them regularly. And they have made me proud to be a Democrat. But in many ways it has felt to me, watching the race unfold, that we're beginning to break into camps of nostalgia on the one hand and big ideas sort of my way or no way on the other."
Patrick added that he spoke with fellow Massachusetts politician Sen. Elizabeth Warren about the race on Wednesday.
“I want to acknowledge my friendship and enormous respect in particular with Senator Warren. I talked to her last night and I think it was kind of a hard conversation for the both of us, frankly," Patrick said.
While Patrick does not support Medicare for All proposals, he credited Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for bringing Medicare for All into “a more popular, meaning more broad based discussion.” He added on Sanders and Warren, "Each of them have contributed to improving our dialogue and frankly our ambition as Democrats and that's a terrific, terrific thing. But I think that if we want solutions that last, they can't be solutions that feel to the voting public as if they are just Democratic solutions.”
Patrick said he would be accepting financial support from outside political action committees, — something other Democratic presidential candidates have criticized.
“It’d be hard for me to see how we put all the resources together for an effective campaign without a PAC of some kind,” he said. "I don't know what that is, I don't know where that'll come from, and I wish it weren't so. I wish that campaigns weren't as expensive and I wish that the influence of money that we've seen in Washington wasn't as great as it is.”
Patrick also commented on criticism he's received over his work at a venture capital firm, Bain Capital.
“I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now … But I do think that capitalism, and I am a capitalist, has a lot to answer for," Patrick said.
Asked by NBC News about how he would use his approach of inclusion to address gun violence, as news of a school shooting in California broke Thursday. Patrick said, “I think first of all we have to deal with an exaggeration, really, of what the Second Amendment is about. We can have and should have strong controls to keep particularly military style weapons out of the hands of civilians, strategies for universal background checks and registration, for example.”
Patrick called the New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley this morning — while this was the first time Patrick spoke with Buckley directly, the NHDP confirms that someone in his circle reached out to the party yesterday. NBC News also learned that Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price spoke to the new candidate this morning, and Patrick told Troy he will be in Iowa next week.
After his stop today in New Hampshire, Patrick will fly to California and then make stops in Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, Patrick’s campaign manager Abe Rakov tells NBC News. Rakov says that Patrick’s campaign will hire staff in each of those four early states.
Democratic Super PAC expands digital strategy to Arizona
WASHINGTON — One of the top Democratic Super PACs, Priorities USA, is expanding its digital strategy for 2020 outside of the four key battleground states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida) and will now begin focusing on Arizona and key voting groups there.
Priorities USA chair, Guy Cecil, who briefed reporters on the group's strategy Wednesday, said they are investing approximately $2 million to court Arizona voters by “holding Trump accountable, particularly on issues around the economy, health care, wages and jobs.”
That message strategy is already being seen in some of the ads currently running in battleground states, where tax breaks for corporations and Trump’s trade war with China are front and center.
The group also intends to target key groups where the Super PAC says Democrats have room to grow: white women without college degrees and Latinos. To help accomplish that goal, Cecil said his organization will launch a year-long program focused on mobilizing Latino voters in Florida and Arizona.
“Democrats who believe that the only path to winning is by convincing white, working class voters to be with us are wrong. Democrats who believe that the only way we're going to win is by focusing solely on turning out voters are wrong,” Cecil said. “The question we should be asking ourselves is: How do we build the broadest coalition of people who share our beliefs and values?”
Cecil said the decision to expand into Arizona was made after testing their ad strategies in the off-year election when Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature. The group spent $4 million on local mobilization programs in battleground states in 2019, and intends to continue and expand that for the presidential election in 2020.
The six-week program “focused on increasing turnout in 2019, building a larger pool of voters going into 2020 ... and also getting a chance for us to learn best about how we need to do our job,” Cecil said. “Unlike a lot of other organizations, everything that we do is tested on the front end and back end, especially when it comes to mobilization.”
Cecil said the strategy is focused on leading Priorities USA to an electoral college win, not a popular vote victory, — which is why the group is focusing on Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, and is watching, but not yet buying, space in Georgia and North Carolina.
Cecil said that while the race is likely to be “incredibly close,” he sees President Trump’s chances narrowing as more voters connect their personal concerns over their economic future and health care options to President Trump’s actions.
“We are still seeing higher premiums, we're still seeing higher prescription drug costs. All of the pressures on people are continuing to be pressures on people,” Cecil said. “On top of that, they were promised that their tax cut was coming in the mail. Trump made promises … and none of those things have actually happened.”
Deval Patrick makes presidential announcement official with video message
WASHINGTON —Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made his entry into the Democratic presidential race official with a video released Thursday morning, prior to him filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot later in the day — just a day ahead of the deadline to file for the first-in-nation contest.
Elizabeth Warren files for New Hampshire primary
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the latest presidential candidate to formally file paperwork to appear on the Granite State's primary ballot, making the traditional appearance at the Concord state house Wednesday.
Walking down the hallway lined with supporters cheering chants like, “Liz is good, Liz is great, she’s fighting for the Granite State!”, Warren stopped for hugs, handshakes and one pinky promise with a young girl before arriving in the filing room.
Warren was energetic when she entered Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office. As Gardner explained the history of the primary and its $1,000 filing fee, she noted, “No adjustment for inflation!”
After submitting her filing fee and signed paperwork, Warren fist pumped and cheered, “I’m officially in!” before signing “Persist” on the commemorative poster.
Afterwards, Warren answered questions about the two potential new entries in the race, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fellow Massachusetts politician, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, by stressing her own campaign message.
“When I've been talking about how we can make this country work better not just for those at the top, I've noticed that billionaires go on TV and cry,” she said, adding, “Other billionaires encourage their billionaire buddies to jump into the race. I believe what our election should be about is grassroots. How you build something all across New Hampshire, all across the country and that we really shouldn't have elections that are about billionaires calling all the shots," Warren noted on Bloomberg.
Warren said that she had not spoken to Patrick in the last few days and that she’s “not here to criticize other Democrats.”
Happening simultaneously with Warren's New Hampshire filing was the first public hearing in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Warren was one of the first presidential candidates to call for President Trump to be impeached. She told reporters she had not been able to catch up on the first day of the hearings over impeachment, but affirmed her role in the process when asked about impeachment trials potentially happening in the Senate forcing her off the campaign trail.
“I have constitutional responsibilities,” she said. “I took an oath of office as did everyone in Congress. Part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law, that includes the President of the United States and if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate then I will be there for the trial.”
Warren was also asked about the diversity of early voting states and if she was confident she would win the New Hampshire primary.
She immediately said “yes,” adding, “I'm very glad as Democrats that in February we will hear from voters or caucus-goers in four different states and those four states represent a lot of different parts of the country and a lot of different people. It's urban, it's rural, different issues and it's about the opportunity to get out and shake hands with people across this country and that's where I am.”
Warren held a rally with supporters outside on this sunny but frigid afternoon, giving an abbreviated version of her stump speech before stopping by the gift shop to sign memorabilia and hold a “selfie” line inside.
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan endorses Joe Biden for president
WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Wednesday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president Wednesday morning, saying in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he believes Biden is the best candidate in the Democratic field to defeat President Donald Trump next November.
A one-time 2020 presidential candidate himself, Ryan ended his campaign in October, opting instead to seek re-election to the House. During his presidential run, Ryan campaigned on winning back voters in the midwest who voted for President Trump. He also offered campaign proposals for rebuilding the industrial midwest like building electric vehicles, and bringing manufacturing jobs back to places like his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
His message often sounded similar to candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is also campaigning on rebuilding the industrial midwest. And like Biden, who campaigns on being able to win the Rust Belt against President Trump.
It was that part of Biden's campaign that got Ryan to endorse him in the still-crowded Democratic field. "This election for many, many Democrats, regardless of where you live, is about who can beat Donald Trump." Ryan said. "And the key to that is who can beat Donald Trump in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in western Pennsylvania, in Ohio. And I'm convinced that that's Joe Biden."
Pete Buttigieg rises to the top in new Iowa poll
WASHINGTON — In a new Democratic primary Iowa poll from Monmouth University, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen to a narrow first-place with support from 22 percent of likely caucus-goers, up dramatically from the 8 percent support he received in the last Monmouth University Iowa poll in August.
Closely behind Buttigieg in the poll are former Vice President Joe Biden with 19 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with 18 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., trails with 13 percent.
But just 28 percent of respondents say they are firmly decided on the candidate they would caucus for. That opens the possibility for the top four candidates to either extend their leads in the poll, or for other candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to gain traction. Klobuchar is sitting at 5 percent in the new poll, and Harris is sitting at 3 percent.
At the time of the last Monmouth Iowa poll in August, Harris was polling 12 percent in Iowa. Since then, she famously said she was going to "move to Iowa", and has laid off most of her New Hampshire staff to focus her campaign on the first caucus state.
Buttigieg's Iowa efforts, which kicked off with a bus tour, seem to be resonating with voters. Seventy-three percent of likely caucus-goers view him as favorable, while Warren, Biden and Sanders trail him in the 60s.
While the poll was taken before former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signaled an interest in entering the race at this late stage, Iowa Democrats were polled on Bloomberg's favorability — and 17 percent said they view him favorably while 48 had an unfavorable view of him.
Bloomberg has indicated that if he does formally enter the race, he will likely bypass the early states in favor of a Super Tuesday-focused strategy.
Four presidential hopefuls go up on Iowa, New Hampshire airwaves
WASHINGTON — Four Democratic presidential candidates began airing new TV ads in the early primary states Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock all released ads in Iowa that focus on them being the sensible choice to take on President Donald Trump in a general election — either because of their plans, or past leadership.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a new ad that focuses on him being the candidate to fight for the masses and not the billionaire class.
In addition, Buttigieg released his first two ads in New Hampshire following his four-day bus tour across the state. The two New Hampshire ads, "Had To" and "Unify", focus on Buttigieg bringing a new face to politics to voters in New Hampshire frustrated with "politics so broken, for so long" and "unifying Americans" around solutions that can actually get done — Buttigieg targets his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan here.
Similarly, Buttigieg's new Iowa ad, entitled "Refreshing," also focuses Buttigieg's "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan. The four-figure ad buy is focused in two Iowa media markets: Des Moines and Ames, and Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City and Dubuque.
Bullock's ad is targeting the same Iowa markets as Buttigieg. His spot repeats media commentators calling Bullock "the only Democratic candidate running who has won a state that Trump won." Buttigieg and Bullock, in theory, target the same voters because they are from more rural, moderate communities. In a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, Buttigieg is leading the pack in Iowa at 22 percent, while Biden and Warren closely trail at 19 and 18 percent respectively. Bullock is polling at one percent in the state.
Biden's new ad, like many of his others, draws contrast between himself and President Trump. The ad opens by calling President Trump an "unstable and erratic president", and calls for "strong, steady, stable leadership" like Biden. While many other Biden ads focus on the events at Charlottesville, Va., "Moment" shows images of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with President Trump, and shows Biden with members of the military and with former President Barack Obama.
Unsurprisingly, Sanders' new ad, "The Future Belongs to Us", cites "the greed and corruption" of Wall Street as bigger than just President Trump, and argues it is "undermining our democracy." Sanders borrows his usual campaign line that in his administration billionaires would "pay their fair share", and would "guarantee health care for all." Sanders was endorsed by the National Nurses United union Tuesday for his Medicare for All plan and leadership.
Don Blankenship announces bid for Constitution Party's presidential nomination
WASHINGTON — Remember Don Blankenship? The ex-coal magnate turned West Virginia Senate Republican candidate who drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with his derisive television ads?
He's back, and running for the presidential nomination for the Constitution Party.
Blankenship announced his bid in a statement Monday morning, noting it comes on Veterans Day "in recognition of America's veterans."
The statement says Blankenship is "attempting to be the first person ever to become an occupant of the White House after having been in the 'big house'" — a reference to the one year he served in prison for a mine safety violation. He claims he was "falsely convicted."
Blankenship emerged on the national political stage during his 2018 bid for Senate, which pit him against then-Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in a tense primary.
With many Republicans concerned about his ability to compete against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the party adopted an 'Anyone but Blankenship' policy, with McConnell, Trump and their allies leading the charge.
That effort prompted Blankenship to furiously push back against those attacks, and launch a series of controversial ads, including one that called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a "China person."
Blankenship ultimately lost, and sued the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Donald Trump Jr., a fact he points to in his announcement speech.
Even if Blankenship wins the Constitution Party's nomination, he'll have extremely long odds as a third-party candidate. But he spent $4 million of his own money during his Senate bid. So he could be a wildcard if he decides to spend significant dollars.
Buttigieg rolls out plan to reform the VA on Veteran's Day
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As a veteran, Pete Buttigieg knows first-hand the challenges of coming home after serving in war. Buttigieg’s service as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, is something he mentions regularly on the campaign trail when contrasting himself with President Donald Trump.
On Veteran’s Day, the South Bend, Indiana mayor is releasing his plan to reform the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“When you put your right hand up and make a promise to give everything to your country, the promise America makes is to remember you, respect your service, and care for you and your family,” his plan says. “That promise lasts long after you hang up your uniform. It lasts a lifetime.”
Buttigieg joins other 2020 candidates who are fanning out on Veteran’s Day to spotlight their ideas for improving the notoriously troubled U.S. system for caring for veterans after their service. Past presidents who have tried to reform Veterans Affairs have found that progress is slow to come.
Sen. Kamala Harris will also be out on the trail Monday holding veteran-related events. Sen. Bernie Sanders released his own plan for the VA. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan in the last few days.
Buttigieg’s plan seeks to fully fund the VA and streamline access to its services. It also calls for an end to veteran homelessness and the decriminalization of mental health issues across the board.
“It's clear we have to do better if we want to see more people getting access to the care that they need,” he said to reporters aboard the bus.
Among the field of 2020 candidates vying for the presidency, Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, are the only Democrats left in the race who have served in the military. While Buttigieg says the VA isn’t his primary health care provider, he recognizes the challenges of what he calls a “convoluted” process.
“We have a system of veteran service officers in counties whose job is it to help people navigate and to advocate for people and really fight for them as they are battling bureaucracy,” he said to reporters on the bus tour. “And those folks do really good work, but it shouldn't be so hard.”
The plan calls for the establishment of a White House coordinator who would work across both Veterran Affairs and the Department of Defense to standardize intake procedures and allow record sharing between the two entities. Buttigieg hopes these reforms would alleviate the challenge of having to track down medical records when transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
The current $16 billion project designed to do just that has hit major snags and delays in the past two years. A Buttigieg administration would aim to execute the project in a way that is human-centered and easy for veterans to navigate.
In addition to providing grants to community veteran organizations working to end the stigma around mental illness and addiction Buttigieg plans to expand access to Veteran Treatment Court which funnel’s vets into rehabilitation centers rather than prison. The wide-ranging plan also includes reforms aimed at addressing discrimination and challenges faced by women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who serve.
On Monday, Buttigieg will commemorate Veteran’s Day by attending a ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH followed by a Veteran’s Day address at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, NH to wrap up his four-day bus tour across the state.
Sanders releases $62 billion plan to revitalize the VA
CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Monday released a $62 billion plan to revitalize the Veterans Affairs Administration that proposes, among other things, to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure of the VA to provide “cutting-edge health care services” to veterans.
The plan, released on Veteran's Day, also pledges to fill nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA within his first year in office. Sanders also proposes a simplification of the claims process, so veterans receive compensation in a timely manner, “without bureaucratic red tape,” the campaign says.
Much of the plan focuses on making sure veterans who deserve care, get it. Sanders says he plans to reform what the campaign calls “harmful VA regulations” that restrict access to care and benefits based on type of military discharge. The plan also calls for Veterans to be Able to use the “full complement” of benefits offered in the G.I. Bill.
The campaign released a video Monday, featuring Sanders senior advisors Warren Gunnels and Jeff Weaver, and late Republican Sen. John McCain. The video, titled “Keeping our promises” focuses on Sanders’ and McCain’s bipartisan work to enact the Veterans' Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill that authorized 27 new facilities for the VA, and provided billions to hire doctors and nurses.
Sherrod Brown reiterates he isn't running for president, says he's happy with Dem field
WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Sunday that he doesn't share the "hand-wringing anguish that my fellow Democrats have” about the state of the Democratic presidential field, reiterating that he's not interested in running for the office himself.
Brown, who briefly flirted with a presidential bid this year, addressed the state of the race during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It's genetic that Democrats wring their hands about presidential candidates. I mean, we always do that. I think it's a good field. I think we're going to beat Trump," he said.
"I go back to the promises this president's made. He makes promises to farmers and then he chooses the oil industry over family farmers in western Ohio. And I think that is eating away at his support."
On the question of whether he'd consider changing his mind and running, Brown said he's never had a "big desire to be president of the United States."
"I love what I'm doing and I just didn't have the huge ambition you need to be president of the United States," he said.
But while he wouldn't discuss the strategies of specific candidates, he shared general advice as to how he thinks the field should position itself. He argued that Democrats have to do "do better" in talking to working-class voters, and that the candidates should focus on trying to strengthen ObamaCare rather than replacing it with a new program like Medicare for All.
"Democrats want to get to universal coverage. Republicans want to take it away. That should be where we all go as a team, as Democrats, on all of this," Brown said.